Cardinal Timothy Dolan, pictured here with Malachy McAllister, spoke with President Trump about McAllister’s battle to stay in America
By Ray O’Hanlon
Malachy McAllister had said goodbye to his partner Catherine and their eight-year-old son Cadán.
They were taking a Thanksgiving night flight back to Ireland from JFK along with the family’s two dogs, Gizmo and Molly.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
The house in New Jersey was now empty. All the family’s belongings had been shipped back to Ireland by the Padded Wagon moving company, this in anticipation of Malachy’s imminent deportation from the United States.
Then the news came through. Another six month reprieve. No deportation. McAllister was astonished. This time he had expected it all to end.
Back at his home, he tossed the house keys down the stairs.
The sound was the kind you get with emptiness. He was closing on his home of ten years. The place was almost empty, save for the memories.
There was still a camp bed and a TV. He had held on to one suit and a pair of shoes for his return to Ireland and a first sight of his native land since 1988.
But now he was going nowhere, even as he contemplated having nowhere to live.
What had happened had occurred before. A countdown to removal and a last minute – almost literally a last minute – stay of deportation.
McAllister would still have to report to the Department of Homeland Security in Newark on Friday. Some things don’t vary in Malachy McAllister’s story. His guest of the nation status comes with strict and repetitive requirements.
More than a little repetition had also played a part in lifting the latest threat of deportation.
Letters had been written, statements had been issued by politicians, and phone calls, thousands of them, had been made to the White House at the behest of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Such things had occurred in past, last ditch, efforts to prevent McAllister’s deportation.
But this time around there would be something new: a significantly raised level of political access.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and Congressman Peter King, had made phone contact with President Trump and top members of his cabinet. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey had made contact with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
A range of other political leaders led by Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Eliot Engel had also put their shoulders to the collective, bipartisan, wheel.
The Irish Embassy in Washington, Ambassador Dan Mulhall to the fore, also lent its weight to the relief from deportation argument.
Schumer reckoned that the Cardinal and King, a Long Island Republican, had the best chance of getting through to the president and convincing him that McAllister should be spared the Thanksgiving deportation.
Congressman King also spoke with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pasquale “Pat” Cipollone.
King would afterwards state that President Trump had been “very understanding” when listening to his account of McAllister’s situation.
The president had also come across as being “exasperated” by what he was hearing, a feeling shared by Mulvaney and Cipollone.
King would speak again to Mulvaney. He was hoping for a breakthrough before Thanksgiving so that the McAllister family could actually give thanks for something on the day itself.
But there was no immediate follow up response from the White House, and no word from the Department of Homeland Security that it had received word that there should be a reprieve.
The delay was in part due to the president’s flight to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving, a mission that included Mick Mulvaney.
Nevertheless, the wheels were turning even as it was wheels up for Air Force One.
And McAllister got the word Thursday night.
He had no one to immediately share his joy with, and the only laugh he managed was the thought of Gizmo and Molly, both Shih Tzus, being canine U.S. citizens in a “foreign country” called Ireland.
The official word now came from DHS. It was a short email to a select group of individuals who had been central to the battle to keep McAllister on American soil.
“Thank you for your interest in Mr. Malachy McAllister’s case. Please be advised that the Department of Homeland Security has granted him another six month stay,” it stated.
Senator Schumer was a tad more generous with his words.
“I am thankful DHS did not move to deport Malachy McAllister and instead granted him another six month stay of removal, and I thank his many supporters for expressing their support for him to the White House.
“However, it is now critical that the administration use this window to grant a permanent stay that the facts of his case warrant, so Malachy can again live his productive and peaceful life here free from fear of deportation. That would be something we all could give thanks for,” Schumer said in a statement.
The AOH, of which McAllister is a member, also expressed relief and gratitude.
“We are grateful for the legislators, clergy, Irish American media and Irish American citizens across the USA who joined the AOH in calling on President Trump to grant Malachy a stay of deportation which will hopefully lead to lasting and satisfactory resolution of his U.S. immigration struggle, said AOH National Director and Immigration Committee Chair, Dan Dennehy, in a statement.
“We know Malachy only as a trusted friend, honest businessman, and Irish American family man. We fully support his desire to keep his family together safely here in America.
“We will stand with Malachy, working to the day when he is free from threat of deportation to resume his livelihood, to continue to contribute to this nation, and to watch his family grow.”
For now, McAllister’s expanded family finds itself on both sides of the Atlantic.
His fate, as it has for years, hovers somewhere in that great in between, his future neither fully American, nor fully Irish.
His supporters are now organizing for the next phase of a long, seemingly endless, campaign to secure the Belfast man’s American future.
But now there is a heightened sense that there actually could be a successful end.