John Cunningham, here speaking to RTE about the plight of the undocumented Irish, is awaiting deportation to Ireland
By Ray O’Hanlon
The arrest of a prominent member of the Boston Irish community by immigration enforcement agents appears not be connected to any crackdown on the wider undocumented Irish community.
John Cunningham, 38, a leading member of the GAA in the city, is being held pending his deportation – this after he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
The arrest and the publicity surrounding it – in part generated by the fact that Mr. Cunningham had appeared in March on an RTE “Prime Time” report on the undocumented – had raised fears that the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security might be targeting undocumented Irish in Massachusetts.
However, the Irish Independent was reporting today that there was an outstanding warrant for Mr. Cunningham after he allegedly took a check for $1,300 from a man to carry out electrical work at a home in March 2014, and that the work was never carried out.
The home owner filed a complaint with police.
The Independent, citing a spokesperson for West Roxbury District Court, reported that that Mr. Cunningham was subsequently ordered to appear in court on October 16, 2014, but that he failed to appear.
The spokesperson, according to the report, confirmed that a warrant was issued for the Donegal native’s arrest at that time and this warrant remained outstanding.
That said, a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement had previously confirmed that Mr. Cunningham had been arrested on June 15 for "immigration violations.”
Said the spokesman: "Cunningham entered the country lawfully under the Visa Waiver Program, but failed to depart in compliance with the terms of his visit.
"Cunningham is currently in ICE custody pending removal from the United States. Visa Waiver Program participants waive their rights to a hearing before an immigration judge and are subject to mandatory detention.”
Shawn Neudauer, Public Affairs Officer for ICE, said that the arrest had nothing to do with the Trump Administration.
"John overstayed his visa by fifteen years. Oddly, enough a lot of people are trying to tie this with the current presidential administration.
"This has always been a priority. People were arrested and removed under the prior administration going back many years."
This is indeed the case, President Obama having earned, in the eyes of many, the sobriquet of “deporter-in-chief.”
At the same time, immigration authorities have been stepping up enforcement in recent months in terms of targeting “criminal aliens.”
This specific targeting is a stated priority for the Trump administration.
Mr. Cunningham’s detention, however, appears to be based purely on his overstaying his visa and there has been no link drawn by ICE, thus far, between his arrest and the court warrant.
Mr. Cunningham has also attracted support from the community in the Boston area as a result of his high profile role in the GAA and other community work.
Mr. Cunningham entered the U.S. in 2000 under the visa waiver program and, under the program’s rules, has no right to appeal his detention or deportation.