There will be Irish among the “Dreamers” and that’s always been certain. But the first two to be confirmed have been in the public eye before. Nicola and Sean Ryan McAllister, two of the four children of Belfast native Malachy McAllister – whose campaign to live legally in the U.S. goes back many years – appear to qualify for the relief afforded in President Obama’s executive order that provides work visas for the children of illegal and undocumented immigrants and who are themselves illegal through no fault of their own.
“Sean Ryan was only ten months old and Nicola was a year and eight months when we left Ireland in 1988,” Malachy McAllister told the Echo this week.
“I don’t know how this will affect my overall status, but I am relieved that they will be off my deportation order. It’s been a long struggle and I am still in limbo, but our goal has always been to give our kids a life that was denied to us (Bernadette and I) when we lived in Belfast,” said McAllister, referring to his late wife Bernadette, who died in 2004.
McAllister praised President Obama’s initiative to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” to halt the deportation of people who were brought to the United States as children and know the United States as their home.
According to a statement from the family’s campaign: “Sean Ryan and Nicola McAllister were still infants when they fled Northern Ireland with their parents to seek asylum, first in Canada and then the United States, where they were granted asylum for a brief period by a Federal Immigration Judge before it was cruelly stripped from them by a controversial judgment of the Board of Immigration Appeals.”
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Said Malachy McAllister: “This is a very welcome humanitarian development. My family has had to fight long and hard to remain in the United States for every single day of the last 16 years. My children grew up in North America and, thankfully, have no memory of the country we fled from, after a lifetime of persecution, culminating in a gun attack on our home by a loyalist hit team.
“This initiative advances our family’s struggle to remain here, and brings us one step closer to the day we can lift the constant threat of deportation from our lives, and finally call the United States our home.”
The family’s immigration lawyer, Eamonn Dornan, said that the McAllisters will benefit from the president’s initiative.
“Sean Ryan and Nicola meet all the criteria as set out in the latest memorandum from the Secretary of Homeland Security. They had no intent to violate any immigration laws when they arrived in the U.S. as children, and they have resided here ever since.
“Both have graduated from high school. Nicola has since graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, and Sean Ryan has gone into business with his father. They have had a final deportation order hanging over their heads for a decade, but deporting them would have made no moral, humanitarian or economic sense.
“Finally, the Obama administration provides relief for them, and for other innocent victims of punitive immigration laws,” Dornan said.