The announcement from U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno this week that proceedings against six Irish deportee cases were to be "terminated," while another three were not being proceeded with, is welcome news to the Irish-American community as well as to all of those who have been living under the threat of deportation for far too long.
Those mentioned are all productive, hard-working contributors to their communities, people who, whatever their previous involvement in the Troubles of their homeland, have paid the price and done their time. The United States can only benefit from their presence here.
It is a timely gesture with a definite political context. As the statement from the justice department announcing the termination said: "The Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor have requested this exercise of discretion based on their determination that the very significant foreign policy interests at stake in the Northern Ireland peace process warrant such an action."
It also coincides with President Clinton’s visit to Ireland, and will be welcomed by everyone who is seeking to forge ahead out of the suspicions, and the hostilities of the past decades. That is, it is well within the spirit of the Good Friday peace agreement. It would be helpful if others involved in that agreement would be equally willing to show a bit of trust and confidence in its vision by making such gestures.
It is said that Mrs. Hillary Clinton was directly involved in getting the authorities to terminate the deportation proceedings. If so, it is a welcome sign that the sentator-elect for New York is going to keep up a family tradition in her commitment to playing a positive role in the Irish situation.
However, unfortunately, not all of those with a deportation order hanging over their heads have been spared the agonies of its uncertainties. A name notable by its absence in the attorney general’s list is that of Malachy McAllister, his wife, Bernadette, and their four children. The McAllister family from Belfast have been fighting to stay in the U.S. for more than three years, after escaping a sectarian murder bid in the their home in the Lower Ormeau area of the city. Last September, a judge ruled that Malachy’s wife and family can stay but he may not, having been defined as a terrorist because of a relatively minor conviction dating back almost 20 years to 1981.
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The fact that Bernadette McAllister and the children were granted relief meant that the court obviously agreed that the family risked a real threat from loyalist gunmen, who had already shot up their home. But, shockingly, the INS appealed the ruling in favor of Bernadette McAllister and her children.
The McAllister family’s case is the most harrowing of all, so it is with some incomprehension that we view the INS’ persistent efforts against them, especially in the wake of these most recent rulings. They must not be left behind. The kind of enlightened action that has allowed the families of the nine now former deportees to enjoy what will be a special Christmas in the U.S. must not be denied Malachy McAllister, his wife and their children.