Irish warned about leaving United States for Christmas

New migrant waivers not expected to apply to people wishing to travel home for holidays

Christmas homecoming scenes at Dublin Airport. Undocumented Irish migrants in the United States have been advised to seek legal advice before travelling home.

Christmas homecoming scenes at Dublin Airport. Undocumented Irish migrants in the United States have been advised to seek legal advice before travelling home.


Undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States have been warned not to travel back to Ireland without seeking the advice of an immigration lawyer following the executive orders issued by US president Barack Obama granting certain illegal migrants legal status.

The Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston, which assists Irish immigrants, issued a travel warning about the orders informing illegal migrants that permission to travel outside the US on “humanitarian parole” is granted only after an application is filed to the authorities and approved.

“Leaving the US carries great risk if an individual does not consult an experienced immigration attorney,” said the pastoral centre.

Mr Obama’s orders protect five million undocumented immigrants, mostly parents of US-born citizens and lawful permanent residents, from the threat of deportation and allow them to apply for legal status to work for three years in an application process starting next spring.

The three-year reprieve from deportation only applies to immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years, have no criminal records and can bring their tax payments up-to-date.

There are also provisions in Mr Obama’s orders to allow undocumented migrants to travel to their home countries in cases of “extreme hardship” such as attending the funeral of a family member or visiting a sick relative and to lift the waivers to the three- and 10-year bars blocking re-entry by illegal immigrants.

While this will relax the rules allowing undocumented migrants to return home, the provisions require further clarification around how they will work in practice and this has yet to be provided by the US Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration policy.

The waivers are not expected to apply to individuals who wish to travel home for a holiday.

The Boston pastoral centre has warned that it could be months before regulations are completed, applicants are filed and approved, and employment cards - known as employment authorisation documents or EADs - are issued to eligible immigrants.

Kieran O’Sullivan, a counsellor in immigration, detention and US citizenship matters at the centre, said that the centre was concerned that in response to media reports on Mr Obama’s orders undocumented immigrants might plan to travel home for Christmas or think that they can travel as a result.

“I’ve heard from people who are thinking of going home to Ireland for the holidays and family events,” he said.

“We have issued a general note of caution on such travel and the point we want to make is that anyone about to leave the USA should first speak to an immigration attorney.”

Undocumented immigrants are invited to contact centres run by the Irish Apostolate USA, which is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Ocean City, Milwaukee, Baltimore, San Diego and Chicago for more information on eligibility for Mr Obama’s deferred actions.

Under the president’s actions, the department of homeland security is expanding the three- and 10-year bars on re-entry to the US for qualifying undocumented immigrants to include the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents as well as the adult children of US citizens and lawful permanent residents.

The grounds on which an “extreme hardship waiver” will be granted on humanitarian grounds to allow people to return to their home countries pending approval of their application for lawful permanent resident status still has to clarified on how it will work in practice.

The new rules are expected to be similar to measures followed under the deferred action for childhood arrivals (Daca), an initiative introduced by Mr Obama in 2012 to lift the threat of deportation from hundreds of thousands of individuals who were brought to the US illegally as children, who are better known as “Dreamers” .

To travel outside the US, Daca recipients must apply for and be approved for “advance parole” before leaving the country and this permission is not granted for holidays.

Applicants must show they are travelling for urgent humanitarian purposes, including medical assistance, to attend a family member’s funeral, visiting a relative or some other urgent family-related matter.

Permission to Daca recipients is also granted for educational purposes to take part in study abroad or for academic research or for employment purposes, such as fulfilling overseas assignments or client meetings, interviews, conferences, training and travel needed to pursue a job with a foreign employer in the US.