Sunday 22 July 2018

'Small but powerful gesture' - Irish politicians urged to boycott US Embassy's Independence Day celebrations

US President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

A senator is calling on members of the Dail and Seanad to boycott the US Embassy’s Independence Day celebrations in protest over Trump’s border and immigration policy.

The current US Charge d’Affairs Reece Smyth plans to host a celebratory party at the Us Ambassador’s Residence in the Phoenix Park on July 3rd titled “United We Rock”. 

Yesterday, Labour’s Aodhan O’Riordan held a briefing opposing the celebrations.

He was joined by immigration lawyer Fiona McEntee who described the separation of families at the border as a “new low” for the Trump administration.  

Nearly 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their parents in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Ms McEntee has been practising immigration law in the States for ten and a half years, and was based in Chicago's O’Hare airport for six months after President Trump's inauguration assisting detainees.

“But what is happening is a new level of low,” she said. “We are hearing direct reports of families being separated.

“These are families seeking asylum - many of them have travelled for upward of a month with their children and they are being separated at the border.”

She added; “We are hearing reports that there are children in cages, they are being detained away from their parents.

“As a mother, as an Irish citizen, as a naturalised US citizen, as an immigration attorney I just can’t sit by and say nothing,” she said.

Demonstrators gather to protest against the separation of immigrant families at the border in Austin (Amanda Voisard/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Demonstrators gather to protest against the separation of immigrant families at the border in Austin (Amanda Voisard/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

“We have a duty to speak out and use our voice.

"I don’t know how anyone could attend a reception in the US Embassy and drink to United We Rock knowing what is happening to these poor children.”

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Aodhan O Riordan

Aodhan O’Riordan chaired the briefing and said boycotting the celebrations was a “small but powerful” gesture.

Senator Billy Lawless who has worked extensively with undocumented Irish in the States also described the latest policy as a “new low”.

“The United States for me was always a beacon of hope for people all over the world. They set the bar for human rights and civil rights and to see what has happened in the last couple of years is quite frightening,” he said.

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