Two very different immigration stories

immigration policies america uk brexit eu residents

We look at how the differences in Trump’s and May’s policies are affecting Irish immigrants in the UK and the States

By Fiona O’Brien

With Brexit leaving millions of EU residents in the UK in doubt over their rights to stay here, America has also hit the news recently as it emerged that Trump’s immigration policies are kicking in with a significant rise in arrests for those outstaying their visas.

Until this week many experts had expressed concerns that despite the long-standing Common Travel Area which predates the EU people who migrated here from Ireland may have their privileges revoked as part of the UK’s move away from Europe, as the EU enforces a hard border.

Brexit could make Ireland sacrifice its independence in setting immigration policy, an academic specialising in migration studies has warned. Migration studies expert Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí fears that Brexit could force Ireland under the same policies as other EU states, and rescind its independent placing in immigration policy.

The University College Cork professor, who has worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Brussels, Paris and Beirut, expressed concern that if the Common Travel Area were only open for citizens of the UK and Ireland, that it would cause trouble for other migrants.

Ireland only really began to deal with mass immigration since the 1990s and has tended to follow UK policies rather than develop its own.

immigration policies america uk brexit eu residents
File Photo. Theresa May reaches deal with DUP and will visit Buckingham Palace to form government. End.. 30/1/2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May, at a joint press conference with Taoiseach Enda Kenny after their meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin, to discuss Brexit and its implications for Ireland. Photo: RollingNews.iePhoto:

On Monday Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that new regulations requiring EU citizens living in the UK to register with the Home Office will NOT apply to Irish people here.

About 3.3million EU nationals live in the UK and Mrs May has said: “EU citizens living in the UK make a vital contribution to our society and economy. Without them, we would be poorer and our public services weaker.

“I want all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who have made their lives and homes in our country, to know that no-one will have to leave,” she said. “We won’t be seeing families split apart, people will be able to go on living their lives as before. This is a fair and serious offer.

“It gives those three million EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives and we want the same certainty for the more than one million UK citizens who are living in the European Union.”

European Council president Donald Tusk drew Shade on her promises, saying it fell ‘below expectations’. Mr Tusk said: “My first impression is that the UK offer is below our expectations and risks worsening the situation of citizens.

“It will be for our negotiating team to analyse the offer line-byline once we receive it on paper.”


Meanwhile in the US the arrest of former GAA club chairman John Cunningham in Boston came at a time of a heightened clampdown on immigration by Trump’s office.

A total of 41,318 people were arrested on civil immigration charges in the period between the beginning of President Donald Trump’s presidency in January and April 2017, which is a 37.6 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2016.

Of course, there were millions of immigrants also deported under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, but the rate of arrests and deportations has spiked since Trump came to power.

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States, and of that number 50,000 are believed to be Irish citizens who have outstayed their visa agreements.

immigration policies america uk brexit eu residents
US President Donald Trump signs Executive Orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 in Arlington, Va. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS) 1196704

Many of these are on 90-day visas, so when that three-month period has finished the Irish citizen is obliged to leave the country.

Not doing so relinquishes the visa rights and if they were to leave the country they would not be able to return to their jobs or lives set up there.

It means that many undocumented Irish have not returned home for years, in times of family gatherings or emergencies for fear of losing their American life.

Terms of visit

After Donegal native Mr Cunningham’s arrest a spokesperson for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) said: “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.”

They deny his arrest had anything to do with Trump’s presidency, and that their policy of tracing those that have outstayed their Visa has always been a priority. During Obama’s presidency three million undocumented immigrants were deported, which is more than during any other American president’s term.

immigration policies america uk brexit eu residents

The Boston Globe has reported that the supposed recent spike is particularly evident in Boston, with the amount of immigration arrests doubling in the first two months of Trump’s presidency when compared to the same time period last year.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has called for calm, stating that it has not as yet seen an increase in deportations of Irish citizens between the presidencies of Trump and Obama, but they have issued advice to those who might be worried.

They have been told not to open the door to officials from the ICE unless they have a warrant Trump’s crackdown on immigration also prompts fears for those in the country who worry about how his plan to deport 11 million people would affect the country, many of whom have contributed greatly to their communities and have paid US taxes for years.


Many emigrants reside in socalled ‘sanctuary’ cities in the US. These are when authorities in certain areas reduce their co-operation with the national government to enforce immigration law.

Leaders of these sanctuary cities do so as they want to reduce the fear of deportation, and possible family break-up, so more people are willing to report crimes, use health and social services and enrol their children into schools.

Trump has vowed to clamp down on these sanctuary cities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities.

But in the wake of increased arrests many universities across the countries have been inspired by the procedures of such cities, and have also joined the sanctuary movement in defiance of the immigration laws.

Many have pledged to help shield thousands of their undocumented students who feel under increasing threat of deportation.

Of the 4,500 universities in the country, 28 have officially declared themselves as sanctuaries, while over 100 have committed to enforcing some of the following trends.

immigration policies america uk brexit eu residents

Sanctuary colleges have said their campus police will refuse to enforce immigration laws and will not allow officers from the ICE onto campuses without a warrant.

They will also refuse to share students’ immigration status with the ICE, but some governors of States have responded by threatening to cease funding to the universities.

In response, the governor of Texas and Republican legislators in Arkansas, Georgia and California have threatened to cut off funding to such colleges.

However, it is in the sanctuary cities themselves, in areas such as New York City, Boston, Chicago and parts of California, where the Irish mainly reside.


Students in sanctuary campuses are of primarily Latino or Asian origin because of the difference in visa regulations.

If an undocumented Irish person has a child in America they automatically become citizens of the country, while thousands of American-born children are still classed as illegals, as the children of Latino and Asian people do not automatically qualify for citizenship.

It means that even a teenager who has gone through the school system in America all of its life, could be deported out of university if caught by the ICE.

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