Irish Echo Online - Editorial

Inside File: Immigration duplicity has Irish under lock and key

By Ray O'Hanlon

Ciarán Ferry cuts a lonely figure on his petition for habeas corpus. His name is at the top of the cover page in the spot reserved for the petitioner. Just below is the space reserved for the respondent, or in this case, the respondents.

In order of appearance the respondents are: Scott Weber, director of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; John Ashcroft, the now former attorney general; Tom Ridge, the homeland security chief who is reportedly looking for a better paid job; Eduardo Aguirre Jr., acting director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services; Michael Garcia, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Mike Comfort, a district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and James Vandello, a judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Ferry must be thanking his lucky stars that he no longer lives in the era of big government.

Be that as it may, this one-man-against-a-mere-seven contest is heading fast the way that one might expect. Ferry's tenuous hold on his American life has slipped to the point of being almost hopeless.

Many Americans, of course, would be inclined to cheer on the magnificent seven who make up the team of respondents. Ferry, after all, is a onetime IRA man who neglected to mention this fact when he entered the U.S. under the visa waiver program.

That he did own up to his Provo pedigree on his green card application form cuts little mustard with the feds or less forgiving members of the citizenry. As far as they are concerned, it's a case of lies and damn lies. The law is the law and must be consistently applied even if that means that Ferry's American wife, Heaven, and their American-born daughter, Fiona, end up having to quit the country.

The forced departure from the United States of U.S. citizens has been threatened, or actually witnessed, in other recent deportation cases, including that of the McNicholl family from Philadelphia.

Onetime INLA man John McNicholl was bundled out of the country last year but his expulsion also resulted in his citizen wife, and two of his three citizen children, having to leave the U.S. shortly afterward.

The law is the law.

The three Derry men who turned up in Boston a year ago to go to a wedding found that out quickly enough. The reception given Don Brown, Damien McCafferty and David Curtis was not quite of the champagne variety. The U.S. Justice Department, which saw them as being from "Londonderry," had them arrested and thrown in jail for a few weeks before sending them back across the Atlantic.

Again, the three had dubious actions on their records that they did not own up to on the visa waiver form.

The law is the law.

Joe Black thought he had put a less memorable part of his past behind him as well when he arrived at Philadelphia airport earlier this year en route to Pittsburgh for yet another wedding. But Black never got past the posse of armed agents waiting for him in the terminal.

The law was being the law again.

And after 9/11 it would be logical to expect that the laws of admission to the United States be applied with maximum rigor to all nationalities.

You might expect. But you would be wrong.

"IF" is here indebted to Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz for a recent report on the happy and uninterrupted arrival of three non-Irish lads at a Florida airport in the waning days of August. Pedro Remon, Guillermo Novo Sampol and Gaspar Jimenez had just been released from a Panamanian prison after being pardoned by the outgoing president of that country. The three had been doing time for trying to blow up Fidel Castro at a summit of Latin American leaders. The bomb they had intended to use was powerful enough to obliterate not just Castro, but also and many others in his immediate vicinity.

Ruiz wrote that Remon, according to U.S. law enforcement records, was additionally the triggerman in the murder of Eulalio Negrin, a Cuban American who favored dialogue with Castro. He was also the shooter in the assassination of a Cuban diplomat in New York named Felix Garcia.

Novo Sampol was involved in the assassination of a Chilean diplomat, Orlando Letelier, in Washington, D.C., in 1976, while Jimenez had both murder and kidnapping in Mexico on his record.

The muchachos, however, were welcomed with open arms on America's doorstep.

The law is, well . . .

Some Irish-American activists have complained that Irish nationals are being targeted so that any complaints that more rigorous controls at America's borders are being applied selectively can be knocked down.

Most law-abiding folk would like to believe otherwise. But though they might have no time at all for Castro and his bunch, the law abiding would likely be concerned at the manner in which the U.S. border seems to loom oh-so-large for some, but not for others.

Late last year, a dozen Irish-American organizations sent a joint statement to the Bush administration concerning the plight of a number of Irish "deportees" including Ferry, McNicholl and Malachy McAllister

The statement pointed to the 2000 Republican Party Platform position on Northern Ireland which called on the then Clinton administration "to suspend deportation proceedings" against a number of Irish immigrants whose cases predated the Good Friday agreement, "and by doing so show support for the Good Friday agreement and those that have sacrificed so much to achieve the peace process."

Separately, the national president of the AOH, Ned McGinley, in an open letter to Tom Ridge, expressed bewilderment as to why Irish people were being targeted for rapid deportation.

Recent actions taken by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement left the Irish-American community feeling like a scapegoat, McGinley wrote Ridge.

He then revealed a gift for prophesy in a separate comment to "IF," one that would be confirmed a few months later at Opa Locka Airport in sunny Florida.

"If these guys were Cubans they would be in already," McGinley said.

What McGinley did not see in his crystal ball was that the 2000 GOP platform line on the deportees would be absent from the 2004 version.

This story appeared in the issue of November 24-30, 2004

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