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DHS Secretary John Kelly Set to Deport Pillar of Irish-American Community from Kelly’s Own Hometown

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Must-Read Boston Globe Column = Yet Another Reminder that DHS Implementing Mass Deportation, Not Targeted Enforcement

In the Boston GlobeKevin Cullen writes a must-read column highlighting ICE’s recent arrest of longtime Irish-American leader John Cunningham. While DHS Secretary John Kelly touts that his agency is focused on bad actors and public safety threats, Cunningham’s story is another in a long string of reminders that many of the real world targets of Trump’s deportations are often valued members of their community who pose absolutely no risk to the public, and are being deported despite their substantial ties and local support. In fact, in this particular case, Cunningham is a pillar of the very community – Brighton, MA – that is Secretary Kelly’s hometown.

Below, we excerpt key sections of Cullen’s column,  “‘If John Cunningham is not safe, no one is safe’”:

They came for John Cunningham on a sunny evening last week, showing up at his house in Brighton like early dinner guests.

They were federal immigration agents, and they were there to throw John Cunningham out of the country he has called home for 18 years.

John Cunningham, 38, has an electrical contracting business. He has paid taxes. He has done much to improve the lives of those around him.

But what he does not have is a green card, and so the federal agents brought him to the jail in South Bay and put him in a cell with the rest of the common criminals. Because in Donald Trump’s America, that’s what John Cunningham is, a common criminal.

Now this would come as a great surprise to the young people that Cunningham helped as chairman of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Boston. It would come as a shock to the many immigrants, not just the Irish but those from other countries, that Cunningham has helped over the years. It would come as an insult to a very kind priest named Dan Finn, who runs the Irish Pastoral Center in Dorchester and who knows that John Cunningham is a good man.

Chris Lavery, Cunningham’s lawyer, told me there is no underlying criminal charge. Cunningham was grabbed for overstaying the 90-day visa he received 18 years ago.

…  ‘You would think a guy like him, with no criminal convictions, would not be a priority,” Lavery said.

But the days of immigrants who kept their noses clean not having to worry about being deported are gone. Under the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been very active. And ordinary, hard-working, tax-paying immigrants are being targeted the same as hardcore criminals.

In the midst of all this round-’em-up-and-throw-’em-out talk, a question has to be asked: What is gained by arresting, detaining, and deporting someone like John Cunningham?

…“If they’ll go after John Cunningham, they’ll go after anybody,” said Ronnie Millar, the executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston. “John is so well-known and so well-liked. If John Cunningham is not safe, no one is safe.”

That is a new reality that is hitting not just the Irish, but other immigrant communities from East Boston to Lawrence, from Worcester to Springfield, and everywhere in between. Being a good person means nothing. Round ’em up.

Kieran O’Sullivan, an immigration counselor at the Irish Pastoral Center, said Cunningham was among several Irish people detained this month. Like Millar’s organization, his has been inundated with frantic, worried calls, especially as word of Cunningham’s arrest spread. He spoke with a couple that is making contingency plans for what to do with their children if they’re arrested.

…John Cunningham was just out of his teens when he came to Boston from Donegal. Like a lot of young Irish, he quickly found work, a Gaelic football team, and a supportive ex-pat community in and around Boston. He never went back to Ireland, not just because Boston was his new home but because he knew if the immigration authorities realized he had overstayed his 90-day visa, he’d be barred from the United States for at least 10 years.

He would have done anything, paid anything to obtain legal status, but he couldn’t. The same government that gladly gave him a tax ID number wouldn’t give him a way to get legal. Cunningham worked for years lobbying for immigration reform, trying to create a system that would allow millions of immigrants to legalize their status.

…“What does this accomplish?” Chris Lavery asked.

The short answer is it accomplishes nothing. For those who would ask, “What part of illegal don’t you understand,” I’d ask, “What part of pointless don’t you understand?”

John Cunningham hails from a small, beautiful place in southwest Donegal called Glencolmcille. It is an Irish-speaking area, and it’s named after St. Columba, the Irish missionary who brought Christianity to Scotland.

If St. Columba came to this country today and needed more than 90 days to spread the word of God, he wouldn’t be called a saint. He’d be called a criminal.