A Belfast man is one of thousands of Irish immigrants living in the US who is hopeful that his family will avoid deportation following radical new changes introduced by President Barack Obama.
Fifty-four-year-old Malachy McAllister’s youngest children Sean Ryan (23) and Nicola (25) were still infants when they fled Northern Ireland with their parents to seek asylum, first in Canada and then the US.
He said his family has been fighting a deportation order for the last decade.
But his hopes have been raised after the US President announced an immediate end to the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the US as children.
The changes will see a stop to deportations and grant work permits for qualified undocumented young adults currently living in the US.
Mr McAllister said he hopes his fears of his family being deported are now behind him.
“The next step is the administration has to see how they will be processing people,” he added.
“It’s such an important move for us. It really takes away the threat of them being taken away and deported alongside me.”
Mr McAllister fled Northern Ireland in 1988 after a gun attack on his Ormeau Road home by loyalist paramilitaries.
The former member of the INLA — who served time in prison — said he left Northern Ireland out of fear for the safety of his family.
His son Sean Ryan currently works with him as a contractor in New York and his daughter Nicola is studying to become a nurse.
Mr McAllister said his children had been granted asylum for a brief period before it was removed from them by a judgment of the Board of Immigration Appeals.
He added that raising his children without “any status” had been difficult, especially after his wife Bernadette died in 2004.
“It’s going to be great for them. They were only months old when we left and have spent their entire lives outside of Belfast,” Mr McAllister said.
The family’s immigration lawyer Eamonn Dornan welcomed the new initiative.
“Sean Ryan and Nicola meet all the criteria as set out in the latest memorandum from the Secretary of Homeland Security,” he said.
“Finally, the Obama administration provides relief for them and for other innocent victims of punitive immigration laws.”