Irish American activists are celebrating a victory of sorts following the release of Malachy McAllister from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) Detention Center in Newark last week.
In the early 1980's in Belfast, Mr. McAllister joined the Irish National Liberation Army. After serving more than three years in prison following an attack on the RUC in which an officer was wounded, he was released from custody.
However, in 1988 masked gunmen sprayed the McAllisters' Belfast home with automatic gunfire while he, his wife, and their 4 children were inside. He decided to leave Belfast and build a life for his family on this side of the Atlantic.
The McAllisters made the move, ending up in New Jersey in 1996. They requested political asylum, arguing that their lives would be in danger if they returned to Belfast.
In late 2000, an immigration judge ordered that Mr. McAllister, who is 46, be deported, but granted asylum to his wife for having ``suffered extreme past persecution based on her religion, her political opinion, and because she is Malachy McAllister's wife.''
Mr. McAllister appealed his denial, the government appealed the asylum granted to his wife, and life continued.
However, McAllister had learned on Wednesday, November 19 from the Board of Immigration Appeals that his family were to be deported within 30 days back to Belfast. For Malachy, he was under threat of being shackled and deported immediately.
As the McAllisters raced to file their appeals and seek the protection of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, around 20 DHS agents surrounded their home in the early hours of Friday morning, and two agents barged their way into her home looking for her husband.
The Federal agents who raided her home refused to identify themselves and would not produce a warrant for her husband's arrest. Nevertheless they threatened to arrest Bernadette and her children for ``obstruction of justice'' when she attempted to serve them with a court-stamped copy of her motion seeking a stay of the detention and removal of her husband.
Then, following a sustained campaign by Irish American activists and congressional intervention, particularly by U. S. Congressman Steve Rothman, Malachy's release from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) Detention Center was secured following his surrender in Newark, New Jersey on Nov 29th.
The release, arranged by the Congressman through the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, will allow Mr. McAllister to be with his wife and children pending his appeal for asylum, which is being considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
``This is a great victory for Malachy McAllister and his family, and I am proud to have assisted them in stopping this injustice. I am delighted that Malachy will return home to be with his family and will remain free while his asylum appeal is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit,'' Rothman said.
``Malachy McAllister and his family have already been the victims of violence in Northern Ireland, where loyalist forces fired 26 shots into the McAllister home. If forced to return to Northern Ireland, the McAllister family would most likely be threatened, harassed, and targeted by violence again. We cannot allow this to happen.''
Mr. McAlister expressed is gratitude to Congressman Rothman ``for his tireless work to allow me to be reunited with my family after this emotional rollercoaster,'' McAllister said.
``Without the efforts of Congressman Rothman, I have no doubt but that I would have been arrested and shipped out to face my persecutors. Congressman Rothman has demonstrated that he is a trusted ally and friend of Irish America and that he can always been depended upon to come through when we need his help.''
McAllister's lawyer Eamonn Dornan said, ``With much perseverance and persistence, Congressman Steve Rothman got the federal government to give Malachy McAllister his freedom. Congressman Rothman is a fighter for justice and that was as clear as ever throughout this very difficult ordeal to reunite Malachy McAllister with his family.''
Rothman added, ``I will continue working to ensure that Malachy McAllister remains free while his appeal is pending. I will also continue fighting to make sure that the McAllister family is granted asylum and not forced to return to the dangers from which they fled. The McAllister family came to America seeking refuge from persecution and violence they suffered due to their religion. The McAllister family deserves sanctuary in our nation. They pose no threat to our nation and simply want the chance to raise their children safe from harm.''