The forgotten ‘undocumented’ Irish in America


The anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping across the United States has increased fears of deportation among the undocumented Irish

Remember the ‘undocumented’ Irish?

They don’t face the taunts, the sideward glances, or comments that they should go back to their own countries from strangers in public places.

They don’t stand out, like immigrants from some of the poorest countries on earth, because of the language they speak or the colour of their skin.

But that doesn’t mean that their lives are not characterised by fear, worries, or regrets that they cannot go home to visit elderly parents without turning their lives upside-down.

It is estimated that there are up to 50,000 of them, the ‘undocumented’ Irish who mostly moved to the United States in the 1980s or 1990s in order to escape a recession and lack of opportunities back home.

Many of the undocumented now have American children, but they would face three- or even ten-year bans now if they left the United States (even on a holiday) and then tried to return.

They try to stay under the radar, avoiding risks such as getting pulled by the police on the roads at night or attracting attention by reporting break-ins at their homes.

This week, for the Irish Central website, I spoke to a leading campaigner for immigration reform who told me about the fear which swept through Irish communities in places like New York, Boston, and Chicago following the election of President Donald J. Trump in November 2016.

As Trump marks the end of his first year in office, it’s impossible for these “illegals” or “undocumented” Irish to avoid the anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping across the US.

Now, more than ever, they see a need to keep their heads down and they are no longer campaigning vocally for a change to their status.

Senator Billy Lawless, the Galway native who represents the Diaspora in the Irish Seanad, fully admitted that the undocumented Irish were in a predicament of their own making.

During the decade after the Great Hunger, almost two million Irish people emigrated to the United States.

One suspects that, if Donald Trump was in power at the time, many of the impoverished Irish immigrants would have been turned away at the ports after their long voyages across the Atlantic.

You can read the full Irish Central article at this link …