Trump Administration Deportations Instill Fear Among Undocumented Irish Immigrants

The Irish flag waves in Dublin on March 27, 2016. Photo by Maxwells/Irish Government - Pool/Getty Images

As the government shutdown enters its third day, the debate around immigration has intensified between President Donald Trump, Democrats and Republicans. While the current debate has largely focused on undocumented immigrants from Mexico brought to the United States as children, Irish immigrants, too, have become increasingly fearful of being deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While President Trump and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worked to deport foreign nationals from Mexico, deportations from non-Central American countries went up by about 24 percent last year.

"It's really indiscriminate. ICE, in their aggressive tactics of detention, are going after the Irish as much as they're going after any other nationality," Ronnie Millar, director of the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston, told NPR for a report Monday. In Boston's Irish community, the wave of arrests by ICE agents has increased fears among those living there illegally.

One Boston bartender told the news station that the Trump administration's immigration crackdown was making customers wary. "It makes everyday life more difficult...For a simple traffic stop they can be deported," he said.

ICE deported just 34 Irish immigrants in 2017, compared to the128,765 from Mexico removed from the U.S. But in a smaller, close-knit community of an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants, the impact is still keenly felt.

Illegal Irish immigrant Dylan O'Riordan, 19, is currently in prison at Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston. He was brought to the United States as a child in 2010 at the age of 12 and overstayed a visitor visa.

"I was aware how with Trump immigration was going to get a lot harder, but I didn't pay as much mind to it as I should have, which was my first mistake," O'Riordan told NPR.

During the 2017 fiscal year, ICE reported that it made 61,094 removals compared to 44,512 in the previous year. On Saturday, the Trump campaign released an ad that expressed its vigor to stop undocumented immigration and to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border. The ad claimed Democrats were "complicit" in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.

Amid the government shutdown, Senate Democrats are pushing for a deal with Republicans for immigration reform and to rescue the protections of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that should DACA end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would not prioritize deporting "dreamers."

"It's not going to be a priority of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize their removal. I've said that before. That's not the policy of DHS," Nielsen told CBS This Morning.