Irish American Unity Conference president Kate McCabe, Ancient Order of Hibernians president Jack Meehan, and Irish Northern Aid president Paul Doris declared in a statement their “enthusiastic support” for the newly formed group, “Thar Saile,” which means “overseas” in Irish.
Paul Harkin, vice president of the IAUC and a former prisoner, announced the formation of Thar Saile late last week.
The group is made up of former prisoners, many of who have faced deportation but who have otherwise been living, working, and raising families in the U.S. within the parameters of the law for decades.
Some are married to American wives and are the fathers of American born children.
“In one of his last acts before leaving office in 2000, President Clinton announced that deportation proceedings against these men would be halted and they would move into ‘deferred action’ status,” the group said in its statement.
“This action was hailed both as a victory for the Irish American community and as a part of the peace dividend for those courageously working to end the ongoing conflict in the north of Ireland. It has become clear, however, that this remains unfinished business,” the statement added
“The status of these men is unclear and ambiguous,” said Harkin.
“We cannot travel back to Ireland to visit family; work permit renewals are an ongoing problem, frequently jeopardizing employment; and the deferred action umbrella did not cover all of the former prisoners in the U.S., some of whom are still living in the shadows.”
In conjunction with the formation of Thar Saile, The IAUC has released a document entitled “Prisoners of Peace.”
This document makes the case that reintegration of former prisoners is a first and critical step in any peace process.
“Ironically, in the north of Ireland, former prisoners are holding elected office and working together to build a new society. Only in the U.S. is their status still unresolved,” the Thar Saile statement said.
It added that the objective of Thar Saile was to end the uncertainty for the men and their families by providing them with a permanent legal status and the right to live, work, and travel unencumbered.
“Thar Saile will launch a broad-based education and communication campaign around this issue and will work with their supporters around the U.S. to bring this issue to the attention of all major political candidates.” The statement concluded.