Undocumented Irish in Trump’s firing line

Undocumented Irish in Trump’s firing line

The Irish Government has failed to stand up for the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US, who may find themselves at the mercy of Trump’s deportation threats, writes Benn Ó Hógáin (Photograph by Lorie Shaull / Flickr)

According to an oft-quoted Department of Foreign Affairs statistic, over 50,000 Irish people living in the United States are ‘undocumented’. These people, part of a larger group estimated to amount to some 12 million undocumented migrants. They have typically overstayed their visa and are thus ineligible to re-apply.

In his 2008 election campaign, Barack Obama pledged to support “a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.” In 2013, the US Senate unveiled an immigration bill designed to tackle the problem, providing a ‘path to citizenship’ for certain classes of undocumented migrant. The plan stalled, however, with a lack of bipartisan support in Congress.

Obama then tried a twin set of stop-gap executive orders aimed at allowing undocumented children to remain in the US, and at keeping families together. The latter order, known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was challenged by Texas to the Supreme Court in June of this year. Having lost its ninth member in Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the Supreme Court issued a one-sentence decision: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” Politifact now rates Obama’s promise as broken, there being no hope of resolving the issue prior to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In October 2015, NPR, the US public service broadcaster, aired a piece on the plight of the undocumented Irish. John Burnett interviewed ‘Gerry’, a 40-year-old bricklayer from Tipperary living in Chicago. Gerry had sneaked into the US from Canada some 21 years previously. He runs a masonry business with six employees, owns a house, and is married with a young child. The story highlights the everyday struggles of being undocumented: avoiding the law is a must, though Gerry is fortunate in the municipal Chicago law provides a ‘sanctuary’; information the police collect on him is not supposed to be shared with immigration authorities. More pressing is how this leaves illegal immigrants trapped as you also cannot leave the country or you will be denied re-entry.

16 years have gone by for Gerry since he last visited Ireland, and with the collapse of DAPA and the election of the candidate with a 10 point Immigration policy which includes ending sanctuary cities (through the withdrawal of federal funding to their governments). Frighteningly for the undocumented, his campaign pledges also contained the following statement: “All immigration laws will be enforced – we will triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country”.

There has been a long-standing call on the part of the Irish government for the US to provide a solution to the undocumented problem. Taoiseach after Taoiseach has raised the issue with President after President, to little success. Ireland’s 50,000 undocumented pale in comparison to the 11 million, approximately 80% of whom come from Latin America. The NPR report pointed out that Irish feel ‘more accepted and less of a target’, but even they are now within the sights of Mr Trump’s immigration firing line. Despite ostensibly softening his stance in his first TV interview, focusing his plans on the deportation of those “that are criminal and have criminal records”, the team he is building around him in the White House consists of a large number of hard-nosed anti-immigration figures. The scope and impact of the Trump immigration policy may not be clear for some time yet.

While the Irish government continues to lobby for amnesty for the undocumented Irish in America, there is a cruel irony at home. According to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), between 20,000 and 20,600 undocumented migrants are living in Ireland, 84% of whom have been here for over 5 years. The MRCI’s Justice for the Undocumented (JFU) group is lobbying for the introduction of a ‘regularisation scheme to allow undocumented migrants the chance to come forward and regularise their situation’. A 2014 Red C poll found 69% were in favour of the regularisation of undocumented migrants in Ireland, while 84% agreed with the same proposition as it related to undocumented Irish in the US.

This disparity, although small, is not tolerable. If Ireland wants to see a fair solution for our daughters and sons in America, then it must practice what it preaches, and press ahead with an immigration reform agenda of its own.

The Olympics: an unsustainable, unequal celebration

The Olympics: an unsustainable, unequal celebration

The sporting celebration of the Olympic Games is marred by under-the-table deals and inhumane planning strategies, writes KEVIN KEANE

Everyone loves the Olympics. What’s not to love? Two weeks of world-class athletics, with unlikely backstories overcoming all the odds to represent their country. Two weeks of racing, shooting, jumping and fierce competition. Two weeks of ultimate sportsmanship. But what happens before the cameras arrive, and after they leave?

Potential hosts of the Olympics fight viciously for their opportunity to become an Olympic city. Salt Lake City bid for the Winter Olympics three times, between 1978 and 2002. Having failed on their first two attempts, the organising team took no chances in 2002; over $1 million dollars were spent on the International Olympic Committee in a successful attempt to court their votes. The ensuing scandal rocked the Olympic world, but does not stand alone in scandal; Olympic bids are regularly dogged with allegations of bribery.

The motivation for such bribery would, on the face of it, seem clear. The Olympics, one would assume, create a massive boost to economies, through tourism, sponsorship and modernisation of infrastructure. That infusion of building is not always positive, however. The recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are a prime example of Olympic building that benefits only the very rich, at the expense of both the poor and the environment. Rio’s Olympic Golf Course was built at great expense by Cyrela Real Estate, whose owners have close ties to government officials. The land was in the heart of a national park, and was re-designated for development amid widespread allegations of corruption and collusion.

Even worse than the environmental cost of the Rio Olympics was the human cost. Rio is not just a city of beach resorts and luxury apartments; 1.2 million people live in favelas dotted around the city. Favelas are working-class communities of families who have been in situ for generations; most houses in the favelas were built by the current occupants’ grandfathers, developed and cared for since. One such favela is Vila Autodromo, once home to over 800 families. It stood where the Olympic Park now stands – curled around a lagoon in the South of the city. As soon as Rio’s Olympic bid was confirmed, those families were ruthlessly bought out or simply relocated, most to the poorer, far more economically depressed north of the region. The north of Rio is a very different place to the southern beaches of Copacabana, Maracanã and Deodoro. It is a region dogged by violence, institutionalised poverty and discrimination.

Rather than attempt to address and alleviate these issues, as the true Olympic spirit would mandate, Rio officials made calculated efforts to simply plaster over them. Through the clever manipulation of public transport routes, the journey from the north to the heart of the south transformed from a simple bus journey to a long and arduous trip including three bus transfers and a metro, six months before the Games began.

The Olympics are a mirage – the spirit of fair play and camaraderie they embody encompasses the Athletes’ Village, and often no further. Too often, the Olympics are seen as a boon on emerging economies, a means by which to kick growth up a gear. In reality, the Games translate to crippling debt, cheap and unsafe labour, and increased marginalisation for minority communities.

The Olympic Games can be an extraordinary force for good – to bring the world together under the banner of sport is the oldest form of diplomacy. In order for that benefit to be enjoyed, however, we need to look very carefully behind the veil and to see the populations that are affected. The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius- Faster, Higher, Stronger. I would propose a new motto more fitting to the 21st Century- Fairer, Clearer, More Responsible.

You know what would be great? Making America sustainable again

You know what would be great? Making America sustainable again

An unsustainable capitalist mindset is draining the landscape of the United States dry, writes Robyn Page-Cowman (Photograph by: Robert Couse-Baker)

America’s presidential race and election highlighted and obsession with being ‘great again’. However this cannot be attained unless it begins to live sustainable ‘again’.

Tocqueville, an 1880s American pioneer, distinguished the great, new American generation from their European counterparts after the Civil War. This was through America’s farming upbringing which developed a closer connection to the land; these ‘ideals’ of the self-sufficient American prospering amongst the boundless, fertile lands of ‘America’ are still seminal notions in its political rhetoric. However these pioneer farmers were made redundant by 19th Century Industrialisation and capitalist landscape.

Rudimentary farming methods which pioneers developed in line with the ecology of the land were thus industrialised to maximise production, such as through irrigation and large-scale production. Irrigation farming is the process of rooting out deep, foundational water supplies and spreading these over large areas of crops at regular intervals. Mainly irrigation is used to reinvigorate dry land areas with low rainfall to maximise farming lands. However, as the Midwestern farming states experienced hot climates with minimal rainfall, industrialised farming stripped the land from water.

Dry heat and drought built a ‘dry air space’ or literally, ‘Dustcloud’ of black smoke which spread over the Midwest in high-winds for extended periods; in Texas for ten years long. The Dustcloud literally stripped the land of any remaining prosperity thus shifting one million Midwestern pioneers or ‘Okies’ to California by the 1930s. Alongside this Midwestern climate change America suffered its worst economic recession – the Great Depression. The 1929 American stock market crash deflated worldwide GDP by 15% by 1932 and shot American unemployment to 25%; economists have estimated that every 1% of unemployment triggered 1,500 deaths. By 1950, this collective environmental-economic meltdown had displaced four million Okies to California’s more profitable and stable climate.

Politicians, artists and writers since the 1920s consistently hark back to the ‘greatness’ of the pioneer age or “American Frontier”, because these edenic lands and boundless pastures represent a simpler life pre-Industrialisation and modern-day bureaucracy. Focus is put on America’s ‘survival’ but not what was really great; that manmade climate change during the 1920s Dustcloud literally extinguished this ‘American Frontier’ – the land, peoples and crops – but also reaped the economic Depression as a result. Yet irrigation farming is still America’s most popular agricultural method.

In 2005, irrigation accounted for over 32 times more freshwater withdrawals than domestic use and since 1950 irrigation has represented about 65% of total water withdrawals. (If you google-map Texas it appears as a patchwork of irrigation circles – the green farms against the yellowy, droughted-Southern landscape). Scientists have linked irrigation farming directly to 1920-30s climate change and the current California drought which is in its fifth year, however the state still annually consumes 2.3 billion gallons and only enforced water restrictions in 2016. California is America’s most populous state and largest agricultural industry, yet conserving an essential life necessity – water – is not on the state or federal agenda.

Moreover all but one of the Republican Party’s Presidential finalists denied climate change. Marco Rubio totally denied the existence of this and its affect on his Floridian state (where sea rises by six inches per year); Ted Cruz believed “climate change is not science, it’s religion” pledging to prevent the Environment Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions; finally Trump tweeted in 2012 “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”.

During his Presidential campaign he also promised to leave the Paris Climate Change Agreements because “we could use a big fat dose of global warming in the North West.” History doesn’t just refute this, but the Obama administration has proven sustainable environments breed sustainable economies. Since 2008, National Park spaces have been expanded to 265 acres and now with every $1 invested in these $10 is invested back into the American economy. Moreover Nevada now houses the largest photovoltaic (solar energy) plant in the world and leads US renewable energy production. Since 2000 the American renewable energy industry has doubled in investment and production, plus it remained cheaper than domestic fossil fuel charges even during the 2015 oil crash. These both refute Trump’s manifesto endorsement of the fossil fuel industry, which promised to rescind Obama’s executive orders on responsible energy production because unleashing America’s “untapped” fossil fuels will create “at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.”

Trump and the many who elected him have mythologised the images of the American Frontier and its “land of the free” into their ideals. Tocqueville, the Depression Migrants and the Obama Administration have all demonstrated that a great economy flourishes from a great society which both exist because of a ‘great’ or sustainable environment. Climate change skepticism is rooted in the mythologisation of the American Frontier’s ideals and images. The “land of the  free” will only become great again if it adopts an environmentally conscious outlook to its climate, food industry and resources. It shirks the immigrants in its country, but America’s unsustainable lifestyle will encourage its dependence on its neighbours. Making America sustainable again is really the only way to make America great again, or as great as it can be again

The Ideas Collective: Chris, Owen, Gary and Laura

The Ideas Collective: Chris, Owen, Gary and Laura

Meet Gary, Laura, Chris and Owen and find out how they’re supporting young people to get involved in politics. Applications for The Ideas Collective 2016 open until Tuesday 24th May!

Can you tell us a little bit about your project idea, where it came from and why you decided to apply for the Ideas Collective with it?

Around the time I saw the opportunity of the Ideas Collective, I had been thinking a lot about how inaccessible politics in Ireland seems to be. This was prompted by my experience as a campaigner for the marriage equality referendum. It was my first time being involved in a national campaign and it really opened my eyes to how little I knew about politics in Ireland. It also made me feel like myself and all the other young people driving the grassroots elements of the campaign could make a difference for other issues too. So I decided to learn more – about both Irish politics, and how citizens could be more involved in decision-making.

How did being part of the Ideas Collective affect your project?

Through our involvement in the Ideas Collective our project grew from a vague ideal to a concrete enterprise which could help fill a real gap in Irish society. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Ideas Collective was getting the opportunity to give and receive feedback on each other’s projects. There were so many interesting initiatives being developed by such great people and being able to witness and contribute to their evolution was really exciting.

“The common denominator was that we all wanted to take our various projects from a vague idea to something that would make a difference”

Who do you think the Ideas Collective is suited to?

The Ideas Collective is perfectly suited to anyone who feels passionate about a problem or an issue, and wants to do something about it! It was that sense of wanting to make a change for good that brought last year’s group together.

We were all approaching different issues, and had varying levels of clarity about our ideas, or experience in the area of social change, but the common denominator was that we all wanted to take our various projects from a vague idea to something that would make a difference. So, anyone who feels similarly about a problem or issue is well suited to the Ideas Collective.

Almost one year on, where are you with your project?

KEY Ideas and Decisions has come a long way in the last year. Since the end of the Ideas Collective, we have launched our website and grown a strong social media presence.


We have also held two workshops, where participants discussed and developed policy objectives that they feel the next government should follow. Each workshop was followed by a forum, attended by political candidates, where we presented our participants’ policies ideas for discussion with them .

Highlights so far have been coverage we’ve received in The Journal, Trinity News, and A Lust for Life, as well as Niall “Bressie” Breslin joining us for our post-workshop discussion on mental health issues.

All in all, we’re thrilled with our progress so far, and excited about our future plans. The Ideas Collective helped us to take a massive step forward; we cannot recommend it highly enough.

Photo: Chris, Owen, Laura and Gary with two election candidates at the launch of KEY Ideas and Decisions in Galway.

Find out more about KEY Ideas and Decisions

Do you want to be part of the The Ideas Collective 2017? Get your application in early to secure your place. Deadline for applications 15th May!

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The Ideas Collective: Eoghan and Alan

The Ideas Collective: Eoghan and Alan

Meet Eoghan and Alan. Read on and see how they brought their ‘blurry idea’ Dev, meet Tech to life. Applications for The Ideas Collective 2016 open until Tuesday 24th May!

After taking an online course on “Mobiles for International Development” I got thinking about the kind of power that technology possesses. It plays a huge role in our lives – and dictates quite a lot of what I do and see, not only because I’m studying Computer Engineering, but also it’s disrupted the way we do things today.

I brought my newly found trail of thought forward with Alan and after an evening of incubating ideas in Doyle’s we decided that there must be tons of innovative new ways to use technology to provoke a force for positive social or environmental change. Is there more to technology?

“There must be tons of innovative new ways to use technology to provoke a force for positive social or environmental change”

We speculated that if we got a bunch of enthusiastic students from a diverse range of backgrounds to put their heads together for a day to build out new ways of using technology for good surely we could spawn something great. And that was it really ­ the inception of Dev, meet Tech.

Of course, we didn’t have a name, or an implementable plan, or even a general direction of what to do to make this very blurry idea a reality yet. Actually, all we really had was a hangover and some freshly nested idealised thoughts!

A while later we stumbled across The Ideas Collective. This seemed perfect. We take our eager enthusiasm together with our blurry idea and over the course of 100 days, flesh it out into a living and breathing action project.

“The Ideas Collective was an incredible experience and we couldn’t recommend it more to anybody who has even the vaguest of ideas”

Flash forward a few weeks and we were nervously entering our first Ideas Collective workshop. We spent the weekend with an incredible bunch diverse, passionate and motivated young innovators.

On top of this, as it turned out, we all had blurry ideas. Throughout the next 100 days we got to watch not only our own project grow,
but all other projects progress from
grainy concepts to implemented social

That progression in itself was incredibly exciting to see. Almost one year on and we’re still watching these projects evolve and build momentum. We’re watching the guys at Nu. build an ethical clothing community as well as the guys at KEY Ideas&Decisions build their civic engagement platform for young people in Ireland.

The Ideas Collective was an incredible experience and we couldn’t recommend it more to anybody who has even the vaguest of ideas and a willingness to immerse themselves in the program, meet great new people and reap the rewards from investing their time and effort.

Author: Eoghan Martin

Find out more about Dev, Meet Tech

Do you want to be part of the The Ideas Collective 2017? Get your application in early to secure your place. Deadline for applications 15th May!

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