Irish Americans angry at GOP over deportations

Posted By: March 29, 2013

By Ray O’Hanlon
Irish Echo. December 3 – 9, 2003

The Bush administration was the target of mounting criticism from Irish Americans this week in the wake of an immigration court decision to deport Belfast man Malachy McAllister, his wife and four children.

A statement issued by a dozen Irish American organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, took the administration to task over several deportation cases, including that of the McAllister’s, and reminded the GOP of a 2000 campaign platform pledge to review deportation cases in the context of the Good Friday agreement.

The statement, and other actions by Irish-American leaders and activists, marked the first significant collision between Irish America and an administration that has enjoyed broad support from the community in the context of the global war against terrorism and the continued effort to advance the peace process in Northern Ireland. The joint statement urged the U.S. government to “act immediately” to suspend deportation proceedings against what it described as “Irish immigrants.”

The statement named the McAllisters, the McNicholl family of Philadelphia, Ciaran Ferry, who is currently incarcerated in Colorado, and Paul Harkin, who served six years in Long Kesh but who now lives in Chicago, where he is married to an American citizen and is the father of three children.

The statement pointed out that during the Clinton administration, the then Immigration and Naturalization Service had suspended deportation “for a small number of individuals who had served time in prison for political offenses in the north of Ireland.”

However, several cases continued to be prosecuted by the U.S. government, and Irish nationals had either been deported or were in imminent danger such a fate. “In all cases, the statement said, “these ‘deportees’ are married to American citizens, have children who are U.S. citizens, or their Irish children and wives were already granted asylum. All have led exemplary lives in the United States.”

The statement requested that John McNicholl — who was deported to Ireland in July and soon followed by his American citizen wife and two of his three citizen children — be allowed to return to the U.S. It requested immediate release and political asylum for Ciaran Ferry, asylum for the entire McAllister family and also for Paul Harkin.

Significantly, the statement pointed to the 2000 Republican Party Platform position on Northern Ireland which called on the then Clinton administration “to suspend deportation proceedings” against a number of Irish immigrants whose cased predated the Good Friday agreement, “and by doing so show support for the Good Friday agreement and those that have sacrificed so much to achieve the peace process.”

The joint statement was signed by, among others, leaders of the Irish American Unity Conference, the Hibernians, the Brehon Law Society, Irish American Labor Coalition and Americans For a New Irish Agenda.Separately, the national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Ned McGinley, in an open letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, expressed bewilderment as to why Irish people were being targeted for rapid deportation.

Recent actions taken by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement left the Irish American community feeling like a scapegoat, McGinley wrote Ridge. “There are several actions taken by the BICE which would make any ethnic group or nationality with absolutely no connections to Al Queda confused,” McGinley stated. The most prominent case, McGinley said, was that of the McAllisters. McGinley took particular issue with the manner in which BICE officers had recently arrived at the McAllister family home in Wallington, N.J.

The agents, wrote McGinley, had arrived in the early morning first claiming to be investigating an accident and then threatening the family. “Such heavy-handed, callous tactics should not be in use against a family who have committed no crime in the USA and would peaceably surrender if called upon to do so by the courts,” McGinley wrote.

McGinley, commenting on his letter to Ridge, said he expected to receive a positive response.”Absolutely, the administration should listen,” he said. McGinley said that the Justice Department had “taken advantage” of 9/11 to “break into all sorts of areas.” McGinley said that he felt the strength of the Hibernians in arguing the deportation cases was that the organization could not be easily dismissed by the administration.
“We’re not whackos, and we’re broad based nationally,” McGinley said. McGinley said that all the individuals in the outstanding deportation cases deserved asylum. “If these guys were Cubans they would be in already,” he said.

McGinley laid down a clear political warning to the GOP in the context of the deportation cases. “I’m reminded of [former attorney general] Dick Thornburgh,” McGinley said. “He came back to Pennsylvania looking to be elected [to the U.S. Senate]. He lost to Harris Wofford because of what he did to Joe Doherty. That was remembered.”In the context of the 2004 presidential election, Pennsylvania, where McGinley lives, is repeatedly cited by political analysts as being one of the most crucial in the GOP’s plan to return George W. Bush to the White House. “We’re going to have a presidential forum open to both parties next year. We’re not going to tell our members how to vote, but we’re going to make sure they are fully informed on where all the candidates stand on the [deportation] issue,” McGinley said.

Meanwhile, Irish National Caucus president Fr. Sean McManus warned that President Bush could lose Irish-American support as a result of the McAllister case. “It could cast President Bush in a very poor light,” he said. “It risks undoing all the kudos he has rightly earned for his good work on the Irish peace process. Irish-Americans are really outraged.”