By Ray O’Hanlon
As if living in the shadows wasn’t bad enough the undocumented Irish must now brace for whatever a Trump administration serves up as its immigration policy.
At the very best it promises to be status quo.
At the worst?
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Well, there’s potentially no limit.
Even supposing that president Trump does not move to forcefully remove 11 million people who are in the U.S. illegally, it is highly likely that his administration will move to make staying in the U.S. even harder than it already is.
Given the names being mentioned at this stage for Trump’s cabinet, the notion of a compassionate attitude towards the illegal and undocumented doesn’t rise very far off the floor.
The Republican Party platform’s section on immigration points to several possible moves that would make daily life for the undocumented even more difficult.
One line proposed would prevent states from issuing drivers licenses to all but legal immigrants.
It mentions a mandatory five-year prison sentences for illegal re-entry to the U.S. and plays up the role of individual states in immigration enforcement.
This would be the Sheriff Joe Arpaio scenario in which enforcement could run all the way down from federal to county level.
Sheriff Arpaio failed to win reelection to a seventh term as Maricopa County Sheriff in Arizona.
Notorious for the manner of his pursuit and treatment of illegals, Arpaio has a friend in Donald Trump.
He might not be unemployed for long.
It’s only been a couple of days since the election but already Irish immigration centers around the U.S. are gearing up for the new reality, whatever that reality turns out to be.
“We are meeting today to plan ahead,” said Siobhan Dennehy, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York.
EIIC has offices in Queens and the Bronx.
“We will be getting the message out that we are here and available and not giving up on our hopes for comprehensive immigration reform,” Dennehy said.
Dennehy said that EIIC had received some calls from anxious undocumented immigrants, especially individuals, some Irish included, who are included in President Obama’s “DACA” program which aims to delay deportation pending a reform in the law.
DACA has been bogged down in the courts, but could well be rescinded by the Trump administration thus rendering any future court action moot.
According to Orla Kelleher, Executive Director of the Aisling Irish Center in Yonkers, some have been voicing their shock at the election outcome, but the center’s work would continue.
“We remain committed to the welfare of all Irish emigrants and we remain cautiously hopeful that a bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform bill will be passed during the president elect’s tenure,” Kelleher said.
Up in Massachusetts, the Irish International Immigration Center has also been fielding calls since Tuesday’s election result.
“In light of the presidential election, many of the immigrant and refugee families and young Irish J-1 students we serve are experiencing deep concern and the fear that often accompanies uncertainty,” Ronnie Millar, IIIC Executive Director, said in an email release.
“Since the election, we have been acknowledging those fears, and reassuring our community that the IIIC has been helping immigrants for decades, and will continue to do so. We are not going away, and our mission remains the same,” he said.
“Many will say that the campaign promised tougher immigration laws and fewer pathways to citizenship for immigrants seeking to build new lives for their families. Regardless of what lies ahead, we will be a strong voice for immigration reform.
“Now is the time to join together in creating a society where all people are welcomed and valued, and enjoy equal opportunities and protections.”
Millar’s reference to the J-1 Visa program followed a pre-election assertion by the Trump campaign that it would scrub the summer visa program for college students that has been hugely popular with Irish students down the years.