Irish Man Living Illegally In Boston Goes On Television, Guess What Happens Next

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BOSTON — Apparently one of Mayor Marty Walsh’s undocumented Hub denizens didn’t make it to the City Hall “safe space” in time to avoid deportation.

According to a report from the Dublin-based Irish Times, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials recently caught up with John Cunningham, an illegal alien from the Emerald Isle’s County Donegal. Cunningham had been living in Massachusetts since 1999.

The kicker? Authorities apparently zeroed in on Cunningham, 38, after he appeared in a televised interview on RTÉ One, Ireland’s most popular television station.

In the interview, Cunningham talked about his “undocumented” status.

“When you’re young, it’s all great, but the years go fast,” Cunningham said in the interview, referring to his initial entry into the United States on a temporary visa waiver program. “And then all of a sudden you end up with commitments here, you have a home, your job, and your work — it just becomes your home.

“Then all of the sudden you turn around and so much time has gone by and you start to realize what’s going to be in store for yourself in the future, you know?”

Cunningham was one of “six undocumented immigrants” who “told their stories about life in Trump’s America,” according to a network teaser:


According to ICE, Cunningham arrested for “immigration violations,” per the Irish Times report. Cunningham is currently being held at the South Bay House of Corrections. ICE caught up with him at a “private residence” on Friday.

The visa Cunningham used to enter the United States nearly 18 years ago expired after 90 days.

Ronnie Millar, executive director of the Boston-based Irish International Immigrant Center, told the Irish Times that people are “very, very concerned” and are “lying low, trying to keep under the radar screen.”

“They are preparing family readiness plans in case the mother or father gets picked up,” he added.

Cunningham was not exactly laying low — he had served as the chairman of the Boston Northeast Gaelic Athletic Association and was a member of the board of ambassadors for Irish Network Boston, a group that also includes state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester):

The Irish Times, in a footnote at the bottom of the report, asked Irish citizens living in the United States to share their stories via email, and offered to keep the identities of those living illegally here confidential. Within less than a day, Irish people living in Massachusetts flooded the newspaper with their stories.

The responses indicate that Cunningham’s arrest has instilled some fear in Massachusetts’s population of illegal aliens originally from Ireland.

Sean Rogers of Cambridge told the Irish Times he witnessed similar detention incidents happening “on a regular basis” soon after he moved to the United States in the 1980s, and noted that deportations “were usually the result of a tip-off or a basic mistake made by the individual concerned.”

Another wrote in to say that the “U.S. is no longer the welcoming land of opportunity” and added that the Irish should not be surprised to hear stories such as Cunningham’s, as President Donald Trump “is an equal opportunity bigot.”

According to ICE, between January 22 and April 29, federal officials arrested 41,318 individuals on civil immigration charges.

In a statement released last month, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said the statistics “reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board.”