Malachy McAllister: Unforgiven for the Passions of His Youth

**proving that governments are the same the world over--FULL OF ASSHOLES.

Unforgiven for the Passions of His Youth

Published: November 29, 2003

MALACHY McALLISTER sits at a corner table in a Manhattan restaurant, his back again to the wall. He has not been to his home in New Jersey for more than a week, because he knows that federal agents have been there, looking to detain and deport him. Eyes down, he is a man out of place.

So, he is asked in this restaurant somewhere, how was his Thanksgiving? "Nothing you would call a Thanksgiving," he answers. His wife, Bernadette, reaches for his hand under the table, while Christmas music taunts in the background.

"What is the purpose of going after me?" he asks, without expecting an answer. "What does it solve?"

Many years ago in strife-torn Belfast, a young Malachy McAllister cast his lot with a paramilitary organization called the Irish National Liberation Army. To fight what he saw as the persecution of Catholics, he plotted to kill two officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In one case, the officer was wounded; in the other, the plan was never carried out.

After serving more than three years in prison, he returned in 1985 to Bernadette, his days of resistance behind him. But Belfast forgets nothing. One night in 1988, masked gunmen fired 26 shots into the McAllisters' home while three of their four children were inside with Mrs. McAllister's mother. Time to go.

The McAllisters moved to Toronto and then, in 1996, to New Jersey. They requested political asylum, arguing that their lives would be in danger if they returned to Belfast. They settled as best they could into a Jersey routine. The father went to work each day as a stonemason. The children went to public school. The family joined the local parish.

In late 2000, the McAllisters received a mixed message. An immigration judge ordered that Mr. McAllister be deported, but granted asylum to his wife for having "suffered extreme past persecution based on her religion, her political opinion, and because she is Malachy McAllister's wife."

Mr. McAllister, who is 46, appealed his denial, the government appealed the asylum granted to his wife, and life continued. Their oldest, Gary, married an American woman. Jamie went to work with his father. Nicola, 17, is on the high school softball team. Sean, 16, has such sure hands that his football teammates call him "Sticky Fingers."

Last week, Mr. McAllister was on Capitol Hill, meeting with yet another congressman who supported him, when his cellphone rang. It was his lawyer. The Board of Immigration Appeals not only had ordered his immediate deportation, but also had revoked the asylum for his wife and children.

He was in such shock that he walked in a downpour for an hour, trying to find his car. His drive back to New Jersey that night was the longest in his life, he says. Fresh in his mind was what had recently happened in Pennsylvania to another Irishman accused of having a paramilitary past: he had left for work early one morning, was seized by federal agents and was hustled onto a plane bound for Ireland.

Then came Mr. McAllister's turn. Early one morning last week, his wife says, a team of federal agents in black jumpsuits appeared outside the door. She says two of them explained that they were investigating a hit-and-run involving a large black sport utility vehicle — Malachy's.

But Malachy wasn't home. And hasn't been since.

Eamonn Dornan, his lawyer, immediately filed motions with an appeals court in Philadelphia, and won a temporary stay of Mr. McAllister's deportation — though not of his detention. Michael Gilhooly, a spokesman for a Department of Homeland Security agency called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that cases of detention depend on many factors, and declined to say whether Mr. McAllister would be detained if found.

TUCKED into a corner of the Manhattan restaurant, Mr. McAllister holds his head in his hand, as if already imagining his family's forced return to Belfast. Where he is sure that the enemies of his past await him. Where he is sure that his family will be at risk.

He questions the loose use of the term "terrorist." Again and again, he says, "I'm a family man."

On the table, next to a cup of cold coffee, rests a copy of a government notice made moot by what may be his last round of appeals. But if those appeals fail, he will receive another notice just like it, and so will his wife and four children.

Arrangements have been made for your departure to Ireland from New York, it will say. Report on this day, at this time, and have your bags ready.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?