22 December 2005

Fears over criminalisations of Irish immigrants in US


22/12/2005 - 18:16:56

New anti-immigration legislation going through the US Congress could create criminals out of illegal Irish people, it was claimed tonight.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte said the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (2005) may have disastrous consequences for tens of thousands of undocumented Irish.

He urged the Irish Government to lobby Washington politicians to ensure the maximum possible level of protection for Irish citizens.

“The Bill has now passed through the House of Representatives and if it is passed by the Senate in its current form, its impact will be to criminalise the estimated tens of thousands of Irish people resident in the US without proper documentation,” Mr Rabbitte said.

“Many of these people have been in the US for a considerable period of time, have put down roots and, in some cases, have homes and families there.

“They may now find themselves facing arrest and deportation, or even imprisonment.”

Mr Rabbitte said there had been a long history of emigration from Ireland to the US but there have always been those who operated outside of the system.

“The US authorities were often prepared to turn a blind eye, but in the new post September 11 climate, hardworking, honest people now find themselves regarded as potential criminals.

“While I accept that Ireland is not exactly a shining example to the rest of the world in regard to how we treat people without proper documentation in our own country, I would urge the Taoiseach to lobby President Bush and the members of the Senate to ensure that as many people as possible are given the opportunity to regularise their positions, rather than face deportation.”

Urgent action is now required by the Irish Government in cooperation with members of the Senate who are sympathetic to the plight of the Irish, the Labour leader added.

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