US lawyers say mass deportations could include illegal Irish

Group expresses concerns over Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ immigration measures

Immigration lawyers in the US are concerned that the current administration’s “unprecedented” targeting of illegal immigrants will lead to mass deportations in the coming months, which could include many of the estimated 50,000 Irish living illegally in the country.

There are believed to be up to 11 million illegal or undocumented immigrants living in the US.

In January, US president Donald Trump signed an executive order on priority cases for deportation, which included an expansive definition of which illegal immigrants are considered criminals.

US Immigation Attorney Caro Kinsella, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (Aila), says they believe the vague language of Mr Trump’s executive order will mean that even those who were arrested for minor offences in the past will now qualify for deportation.


Ms Kinsella explained that a significant acceleration in raids by immigration agents on workplaces and private homes is expected to begin as soon as the necessary structures are in place - namely, the adoption of additional police powers and the employment of thousands of extra immigration officers.

"I think you will definitely see [raids] in the coming months now," said Irish-born Ms Kinsella.

“My clients, who have been caught up in past immigation raids, have told me that they (immigration officers) will come very early in the morning, four, five, six in the morning, and they will come to their homes or place of employment.”

Places of work

Ms Kinsella explained that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents are able to target workplaces, asking suspected illegal immigrants to produce ID or relevant papers.

If the accused are unable to do so, they will be brought to detention centres, which Ms Kinsella described as “nothing short of jails”.

As for home raids, which should require warrants, Ms Kinsella told The Irish Times that these are performed by Ice and that people shouldn't open their doors unless they see that a warrant was executed by a judge with correct name and address details.

“They want you up, out and startled. They want you out the door so they can get you to a detention centre,” she said.

While a deportation generally takes between a week and two weeks, immigration lawyers believe a new series of “mass deportations” could see this expedited.

‘Sanctuary cities’

Many of the so-called “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants, including some of the biggest cities in the US, have refused to co-operate with Mr Trump’s order, which overturns laws in these cities that prevent local police from inquiring into someone’s immigration status, explained Ms Kinsella.

She said there would be significantly less legal grounds on which the executive order on deportations could be fought compared with the recent ban on travel into the US from seven mainly Muslim countries.

However, Ms Kinsella said her legal opinion is that a constitutional challenge to the order could be taken under the 10th Amendment, which is strongly supported by the US supreme court.

The Amendment stipulates the federal government cannot commandeer state or local agencies to enforce federal mandates.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has also said Mr Trump lacks the constitutional authority to cut off funding from “sanctuary cities” for non-compliance with his order, as he has threatened, “simply because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families”.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times