Much of the rhetoric that supports U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ramped up efforts to deport undocumented immigrants focuses on the salvation of Western civilization. Advocates of heavy-handed immigration policies often simultaneously tout the superiority of the West and the threat it faces from outside infiltrators.
But according to a recent report from the Associated Press, Latin Americans and Muslims aren’t the only targets of increased enforcement in the Trump era. One of the groups facing heightened scrutiny is, surprisingly, the Irish.
Eighteen Irish citizens have been deported this year, compared with 26 total for all of 2016. Though this seems like a small number, it is statistically significant and is leaving much of the Irish community in the United States unsettled.
“[I]n Boston, John Cunningham, a well-known Irishman who had overstayed his visa by 14 years, was sent back to Ireland last week, sending shivers through the city’s sizeable Irish expat community.”
“’People are very, very concerned and lying low,’ says Ronnie Millar, of the Boston-based Irish International Immigrant Center. ‘The message is that if it can happen to John, it can happen to anyone.’”
Though some advocates of deportations might emphasize that Cunningham had overstayed his visa, was involved in an ongoing legal dispute, and advertised his undocumented status during on appearance on Irish TV, other potential deportees are facing less than clear-cut justifications.
Denis Davydov, a Russian citizen living in San Francisco, has been allowed into the country because he is an HIV-positive gay man and was granted asylum status due to Russia’s regressive policies on homosexuality. But he was detained upon returning to the U.S. after a trip to the Virgin Islands. Though his attorney was able to resolve the issue temporarily, he still faces deportation back to a country likely to persecute him.
“Before this, I thought I was a doing everything right, but I’m afraid now that doing everything right is not enough. I don’t know what else I can do,” he said. “I feel like it can happen again to me anywhere. In the airport or in the street.“
Irish and Russian immigrants aren’t the only ones facing deportation. According to the Migration Policy Institute, Europeans make up roughly 400,000 of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S. As AP noted:
“Among Europeans, Romanians make up the largest share, with 193 deportations so far this year. Behind are Spain at 117; the United Kingdom at 102; Russia at 81; and Poland at 74. Those countries were also tops last year; Romania had 176, United Kingdom 160, Poland 160, Spain 115 and Russia 94.”
“The rumor has gone around, ‘Don’t go in any courthouses, and if you hear a knock on your door and you’re not expecting anyone, don’t answer it,” said Benny Murphy, who lived in the United States illegally until he married a U.S. citizen three years ago.
Magdalena Dolas, executive director of the Polish American Association in Chicago, says she has received a number of inquiries regarding what to do if immigration officials come to their residence. “People are worrying about their rights,” she said. “It shows there is awareness but that there is also anxiety.”
Also in Chicago, the Irish Immigrant Support Center says it has received “triple the number of inquiries on immigration and legal service matters” as it did last year.
Immigration advocates say Trump is taking a much harder stance than Obama, who focused on serious criminals. Rather, they argue, the Trump administration is “sweeping up many hardworking, taxpaying people, many of whom have raised children who are now U.S. citizens,” AP summarized.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a pro-enforcement organization, argued the new administration’s policies are simply a return to normal, likening the ramped up measures to police enforcement.
“This is a return to more traditional immigration enforcement,” Vaughan said. “There needs to be some level of across-the-board, routine enforcement, in the same way your local police department doesn’t focus only on murder, robbery and rape. They also have traffic patrols.”
In contrast, Ali Noorani, executive director of the immigrant-rights group National Immigration Forum, emphasized the zeal with which Trump administration is operating:
“It’s pretty clear ICE is removing anyone undocumented they come across. The bigger issue is that the Trump administration is wasting really valuable law enforcement resources on many people who aren’t a public safety threat, whether they’re Irish, Latino, Asian or otherwise.“
In addition to sweeping up Europeans, immigration enforcement is predictably deporting far more than just Europeans.
“The Trump administration has deported 167,350 foreigners so far in 2017, compared with 240,255 in all of 2016. Immigrants from Latin America make up the most by far, with Mexico leading the way at about 93,000,” AP reported.