Irish people in the US are questioning their future after President Trump’s latest raft of measures to clamp down on undocumented immigrants.
“A lot of people will question where their future lies, here or where,” said executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Centre, Orla Kelleher.
“These are people who would have spent half their lives here and have children and homes and pay their taxes,” she added.
The Aisling Centre has been in operation in New York since 1996, with the principle aim of assisting Irish immigrants to transition into American life.
Ms Kelleher said the centre supports both documented and undocumented Irish immigrants.
“There is an increasing anxiety now. We’ve been fielding a lot of calls and messages from people who are understandably anxious,” she told the Irish Examiner.
Ms Kelleher said she spoke to one undocumented Irish immigrant who, after 21 years in the US, is “genuinely nervous” to travel on public transport in case she is approached by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent.
“It’s very difficult for us to find the words to reassure people but we must keep getting the facts out to people,” she added.
President Trump has expanded his immigration enforcement policies to track down undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions to include those with misdemeanours. This could be something as simple as driving with a broken back light.
Ms Kelleher said her biggest message to people is to carry photo identification on their person at all times.
“New York State law requires everybody to carry a valid photo ID at all times. I am urging everyone to get photo ID,” she said.
“If you are approached by an ICE agent you don’t want to be breaking that law, you don’t want to expose yourself to further questioning.”
Ms Kelleher said the centre is using its Facebook page to keep Irish immigrants informed, as opposed to holding assembled meetings.
“We don’t want to expose anybody by organising a meeting in an assembly format,” she said.
Ciaran Staunton, an Irish immigrant living in the US for 30 years, is co-founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
He said the Irish Government needs to get its own house in order in respect of returning citizens and advised people against speculating based on social media postings.
“There are 300m people in America, you can’t go around door-to-door,” he said. “I don’t think people should be responding to speculation especially on social media.”
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