Irish community 'anxious' about immigrant threat
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan intends to monitor Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies "very closely" as the 45th president began his clamp down on illegal immigrants.
The American president yesterday signed an executive order during his appearance at the Department of Homeland Security that will set the wheels in motion to strip federal grant money from 'sanctuary cities' that harbour illegal immigrants.
Around 300 cities and towns in the US - including New York, Boston and Chicago which have large Irish populations - have adopted policies that shield illegal immigrants from the scrutiny of the federal (national) US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency which has the power to detain and deport them.
After signing one order yesterday to build a wall along the Mexican border and another to identify hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants that can be withdrawn to 'punish' sanctuary cities, Mr Trump made it clear he plans to get tough on illegal immigrants.
Last night, Mr Flanagan said: "Our embassy in Washington, DC and our consulates remain in active and ongoing contact with Irish immigration centres throughout the United States."
"My department will continue to monitor the developments in this area very closely."
The Irish International Immigrant Centre in Boston said Mr Trump's actions will contribute to a growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the US and leave undocumented Irish worried about being turned over to federal authorities for even minor traffic violations.
"People are tuned into this and worried that if you run a red light or have a broken tail light on your car it puts you under the radar of law enforcement agencies," head of the organisation Ronnie Millar said.
"Even victims of crime who are undocumented won't go to the police.
"There's definitely an anxiety."
Mr Trump promised to swiftly deport between two and three million illegal immigrants in the US during his election campaign.
There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the US - a tiny fraction of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants there.
But Ciaran Staunton, a native of Louisburgh, Co Mayo, and chair of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, said he doesn't believe the undocumented Irish need to feel unduly anxious.
"I said before that people shouldn't be alarmed," he said of the clampdown on sanctuary cities.
"He is targeting criminal aliens.
"My opinion hasn't changed," he said following the announcement last night.
"Irish people shouldn't be alarmed or respond to alarmist or sensational headlines."
He believes it will take a lot of time before the strong words to "punish" sanctuary cities will translate to action.
"Nothing has come out of this press conference that would worry me," he said.
He said much of what was announced yesterday by Mr Trump's office was merely a re-hash of his election promises.