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'A great deal of fear' in Irish-American community after man arrested in Boston on immigration offences

John Cunningham was arrested on Friday for living illegally in the US.

John Cunningham now faces deportation from the US.
John Cunningham now faces deportation from the US.
Image: RTÉ Prime Time via Screengrab

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs has confirmed that it is providing consular assistance to an Irish man who was arrested in the US over immigration offences.

John Cunningham was arrested on Friday for living illegally in the US. He now faces deportation from the country.

The DFA said that it was aware of Cunningham’s case and that it was providing consular assistance.

Cunningham is the former chairman of Boston Northeast GAA. He has been living in the US for a number of years.

The DFA also said that it was aware of the number of arrests of Irish citizens who have come to the attention of US Immigration authorities.

“We are conscious of the understandable concern amongst the Irish community in the US, as there is in others, given developments under the new Administration,” a spokesperson said.

Our Embassy in Washington and our Consulates across the US continue to monitor the situation closely, in conjunction with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres

The spokesperson said that the Irish Embassy was in close touch with US authorities. It also said the number of deportations of Irish citizens to date this year had not increased compared to other years.

‘World turned upside down’

Speaking this afternoon on RTÉ’s News at One, Boston immigration lawyer John Foley said that he had been to see John Cunningham on Sunday.

“Basically his world has been turned upside down. He’s been hit with an immigration tsunami,” said Foley.

Life as he knew it is over. And so he – like many in Irish community are living – [is] looking his shoulder if you will.

Foley – who isn’t involved directly with Cunningham’s case – said that it wasn’t a question of if Cunningham would be deported. He said it was almost certain that he would be.

“It’s not a question of the deportation going ahead – it’s going ahead,” said Foley.

He – like many of the Irish – enter on the visa waiver programme. So they can come and stay for 90 days. The waiver part means they’ve waived all right to judicial processing.

Foley said that there was “a great deal of fear” in the Irish American community.

US president Donald Trump promised a crackdown on illegal immigration to the US during his campaign trail.

It is estimated that there are over 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US, including around 50,000 undocumented Irish nationals.

The DFA urged concerned Irish citizens to remain calm and to stay in touch with their local Consulate and Immigration centre. It said that if necessary people should consult with an immigration lawyer about their particular circumstances.

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Read: Watch: Enda’s ‘lecture’ to Donald Trump on immigration

Read: US immigration attorney warns undocumented Irish to ‘remain silent or you’ll be gone very quickly’

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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