Anger among Irish as Trump ends protections for undocumented youth

‘It is back to being nerve-wracking again,’ says Cork father of Irish ‘Dreamer’

 

The Irish emigrant community in the US has reacted with anger at the decision of Donald Trump’s administration to end protections for undocumented children of illegal immigrants.

The US president is shutting down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Daca, programme that prevents the deportation of immigrants brought illegally to the US as children. It was established during the Obama era.

Almost 800,000 undocumented children of illegal parents, dubbed “Dreamers”, are set to lose the amnesty signed by the last president under an executive order that bypassed the US Congress.

Mr Trump is giving Congress six months to try find agreement on legislation to replace the Daca programme, leaving many immigrant families, including some Irish, facing a nervous wait.

“People are sickened over, just heartbroken,” said Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Centre in New York.

Ms Kelleher said that she personally knows a number of Irish families in New York who benefited from Daca and they were “absolutely devastated and understandably very concerned.

“These children were brought here as babies and children not knowing or understanding of what the consequences would be of trying to do the right thing. These are people who only see this country as their home for so many years. The next six months will be interesting but in a concerning way,” she said.

Patrick, an immigrant from Cork whose daughter received a work permit and driving licence under Daca, said that she was now “very worried” about President Trump’s decision.

“It is back to being nerve-wracking again. It is fightening really because you never really know what is going to happen. We are back to the stage where we are living on pins and needles again,” said the New England resident, who is now a US citizen.

His daughter came to the US when she was 12 and is now in her 30s and “totally Americanised,” having spent longer in the US than in Ireland.

“She is living day-to-day with Daca. It is a little bit of relief but you can’t do very much with it, other than work,” he said. “We have had a lot of deaths in the family at home, my parents, and my aunts and uncles. She could never leave the country.”

Ronnie Millar, executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Centre in Boston, said that people were mostly angry at Mr Trump’s move. He said they see it as “a betrayal” given his mixed signals, saying that he had “a great love” for Dreamers while removing a measure that protects them.

“There is generally a sense of real disappointment and real anger in the Irish community and the broader immigrant community that this was a low move,” he said.

The vast majority of Dreamers are from Central and South America.

Billy Lawless, the Chicago-based Irish Senator for the diaspora, said the number of Irish who benefitted was “a handful rather than hundreds”.

“I am disappointed and very worried,” said Mr Lawless, who described Mr Trump’s move as “inevitable” given his rhetoric on immigration.

He expressed hope in at least 30 Republicans coming out to support a “congressional fix” suggested by Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“Maybe this will spur Congress into action,” he said. “They will have to do something because we will be in a right stew in six months’ time.”