Thursday 14 December 2017

Irishman facing deportation after living illegally in Boston wanted over alleged larceny

Donegal man John Cunningham, who is facing deportation from Boston
Donegal man John Cunningham, who is facing deportation from Boston
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

An Irishman detained in Boston for living illegally in the US was wanted over an alleged larceny offence.

The Irish Independent can reveal that there is an outstanding warrant for John Cunningham (38) in Massachusetts after he allegedly took a cheque for $1,300 (€1,170) from a man to carry out electrical work at a home in March 2014.

Alleged victim Christopher Waltham claimed that he never saw or heard from Donegal-native Mr Cunningham again and he filed a police report in May of that year.

A spokesperson for West Roxbury District Court confirmed that Mr Cunningham was scheduled to appear in court on October 16, 2014 but he failed to appear.

The spokesperson confirmed that a warrant was issued for his arrest at that time and this remains outstanding.

But now Mr Cunningham has been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on June 15, for "immigration violations".

Mr Cunningham's impending deportation has heightened concern among the sizeable community of undocumented Irish living under the Trump regime.

Mr Cunningham emigrated from Glencolmcille, Co Donegal, to Boston in February 2000 and had previously appeared in an RTÉ 'Prime Time' documentary on the undocumented Irish. He is now awaiting deportation.

A spokesman for the ICE agency said: "Cunningham entered the country lawfully under the Visa Waiver Programme, but failed to depart in compliance with the terms of his visit. Cunningham is currently in ICE custody pending removal from the United States. Visa Waiver Programme participants waive their rights to a hearing before an immigration judge and are subject to mandatory detention."

Shawn Neudauer, Public Affairs Officer for the ICE agency, said his arrest had nothing to do with the Trump administration.

"John overstayed his visa by 15 years. Oddly, enough a lot of people are trying to tie this with the current presidential administration.

"This has always been a priority. People were arrested and removed under the prior administration going back many years," said Mr Neudauer.

The ICE representative added that if a visitor to the US stayed in excess of 90 days without the required documents then they will be subject to arrest and immediate deportation.

"There is no hearing before an immigration court, there's no judicial involvement whatsoever.

"If I was to come to Ireland and stay 100 days, Irish authorities can arrest me and keep me in jail before I get sent back.

"John will be held in custody until he will be sent back to Ireland. This will be relatively quick. He won't be kept in jail for very long and has no right to appeal," he said.

A source from a Boston GAA club said that Mr Cunningham is currently being detained at the Suffolk County House of Corrections and is waiting to be sent back to Ireland.

"They came to his door the other day and took him… but he's getting a lot of good help," he said.

"It's a shame. He's a high-profile figure in the GAA community here. He'd be very well respected."

He was previously chairman of Boston Northeast GAA, and is also a member of the Board of Ambassadors for Irish Network Boston.

ICE has reported a 38pc increase of individuals arrested who are known or suspected to be living in the country illegally.

A total of 41,318 people were arrested on civil immigration charges in a 100-day period between January and April 2017, a 37.6pc increase compared to same period in 2016.

There are reports that the crackdown is particularly evident in Boston, with the amount of federal arrests in relation to immigration doubling in the first two months of Donald Trump's presidency when compared to the same time period last year.

Speaking about the recent surge in these arrests, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said: "Agents and officers have been given clear direction to focus on threats to public safety and national security, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the arrest of convicted criminal aliens.

"However, when we encounter others who are in the country unlawfully, we will execute our sworn duty and enforce the law."

Irish Independent

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