US crackdown on illegal Irish intensifies in Boston

Irish community sees sharp increase in deportations amid increased enforcement

There has been a sharp increase in the number of illegal Irish being detained by US immigration officials in the Boston area, according to community and legal sources within the Irish-American community.

The crackdown on illegal immigration has intensified in the past three months as the number of Irish deported from across the US since the Trump administration took power has risen to 34 from 26 last year, according to the most recent deportation figures released last week.

There have been 33,366 more arrests of illegal immigrants across the US by US immigrations and customs enforcement (ICE) officials this year, representing a 30 per cent increase.

This follows an order signed by US president Donald Trump five days after taking office directing increased enforcement against illegal immigrants.


An ICE spokesman was unable to provide a breakdown on the number of Irish who have been detained this year, but confirmed an overall increase in enforcement activity at the direction of the Trump White House.

“ICE targets any individual who is suspected of violating US immigration laws, with a focus on those who have criminal histories,” said a spokesman for the agency.

Traffic violations

The majority of the Irish picked up by ICE agents in Boston have violated immigrations law by overstaying the period of their 90-day holiday visa waivers.

More than half of those detained had committed offences other than breaches of immigration laws, according to one community worker, although the offences were minor in nature such as traffic violations.

"We have had 17 Irish detained already this year," said Ronnie Millar, executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Centre in Boston.

“We have definitely seen in Boston greater enforcement, and we are representing a number of individuals and we are supporting them as best we can. There is a deep, deep concern about the increased activity here.”

Mr Millar said the Boston immigrant centre has heard of instances of undocumented Irish being arrested at home, including one individual who woke up to find two ICE officers in his bedroom.

The increased clampdown on the undocumented has led some to consider moving home. "There are definitely people saying enough is enough, and they are returning to Ireland, " he said.


The centre has warned any illegal Irish not to open their doors to ICE agents unless they produce a warrant signed by a judge.

ICE officials have stepped up arrests at court houses in Boston, targeting illegal individuals appearing before a judge over an offence unrelated to their immigration status.

"It seems to be tougher than ever before," said Boston lawyer John Foley, who has represented a number of Irish individuals in run-ins with ICE agents this year. "We're hearing more and more stories, and it is fair to say people are very scared. They are going to extremes. They are sleeping in different places."

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times