Irish-American politician urged to help those facing deportation

Demonstrating youths call on Irish-American congressman to support Dream Act

A large group of students gathered by the Famine Memorial on Monday evening to show their support for the estimated 800,000 undocumented men and women brought to the US as children who are facing deportation. Video: Sorcha Pollak

 

An Irish-American republican congressman has been urged at a protest in Dublin to support the passing of an act which would protect hundreds of thousands of young people in the United States from deportation.

A large group of students, including teens still dressed in their school uniforms, gathered by the Famine Memorial on Monday evening to show their support for the estimated 800,000 undocumented men and women brought to the United States as children. The group of Irish teenagers gathered on Custom House Quay included young undocumented migrants who came to Ireland with their parents as children seeking better opportunities and a brighter future.

Arianah*, who is part of the Young, Paperless and Powerful youth project for undocumented young people in Ireland, said the group was calling on Irish-American congressman Peter King to pass the Dream Act as a replacement for the Daca programme. The Daca Act was introduced in 2012 under Barack Obama and gave temporary immigration status to people who arrived in the US illegally as children. The programme was rescinded by President Donald Trump earlier this year. Undocumented migrants in the United States are now calling for politicians to pass the Dream Act which would allow those once protected by Daca to remain in the US.

Medical care

“Congressman Peter King is very fond of his Irish heritage but he can’t just be Irish on St Patrick’s Day,” said 18-year-old Arianah, adding that Mr King had a responsibility to support undocumented Irish people throughout the whole year. “Speaking from experience I know what it’s like to live under fear of the police and not having access to third level education or medical care. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else. It’s Universal Children’s Day and no child should grow up undocumented in Ireland, in the US or anywhere else.”

Mark*, who moved to Ireland from Mauritius with his family nine years ago, accused the Irish Government of turning their backs on undocumented youths in Ireland while showing support for the undocumented Irish in the United States. “We’re doing this just to raise awareness that there are undocumented young people in Ireland too and they could have a future contribution here in Ireland when they finish their education.”

A letter from a formerly undocumented student named Shiv was read out at Monday’s demonstration. Shiv, whose status was regularised in 2015 and is now studying at DCU, said thousands of undocumented young people in Ireland were being forced to live a “double life” and lie to friends and teachers.

Enormous contribution

“Undocumented people make a huge contribution to Ireland, but so often their potential is wasted. We are young and full of potential, we are products of the Irish education system who cannot go to university.

“Every single year since 2007 I would watch a taoiseach go to the US and seek the legalisation of undocumented Irish and I thought, ‘what a hypocrite’. Ireland has always been a nation of immigrants who left many years ago for a better life. The Irish diaspora in the UK, the US and the Australia are a testament of how much immigrants can contribute to a country.”

There are an estimated 3,000-5,000 undocumented young people and children living in Ireland. According to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, there are between 20,000-26,000 undocumented people of all ages living and working on our shores.

  • *Names have been changed to protect anonymity of young people interviewed