The Trump administration has granted a six-month stay on the deportation of former political prisoner Malachy McAllister, who has been threatened with expulsion since seeking asylum in New York in 1996.
Mr McAllister and his family pursued asylum in the United States after a gun and bomb attack on his home and he was targeted for assassination by loyalists.
According to a report in the Washington Examiner, which quoted a leaked email from a top US Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, President Trump’s newly appointed acting secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, granted the last-minute stay following a request by US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Mr McAllister’s requests to stay have previously been denied over his involvement with the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in the 1980s.
Schumer, who represents McAllister’s current home state of New York, called McAleenan on Thursday and urged him to overrule an ICE decision not to grant the Irishman political asylum.
“Mr McAllister is a valued member of the Irish American community who has done nothing but productive things since seeking asylum here following an assassination attempt on him and his family during the Troubles. It achieves no positive benefit for America to deport him,” the Senator said in a statement.
Schumer pointed out that Mr McAllister has been living in the US since the mid-90s with no criminal record. A number of powerful Irish-American politicians have supported the McAllisters’ decades-long campaign to remain in the US, against an effort by British lobbyists to have him classed as a “terrorist”.
In 2000, President Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, wrote in a legal opinion that he should be allowed to stay with his US family.
“Congress’s definition of ‘terrorist activity’”, she wrote, “sweeps in not only the big guy but also the little guy who poses no risk to anyone. It sweeps in Malachy McAllister [and] Malachy’s children, Seán and Nicola, are swept in, too.”
She said that were the McAllister family deported, it would mean the words carved on the Statue of Liberty would no longer mean anything.
“I refuse to believe that ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ is now an empty entreaty, but if it is, shame on us,” she said.
Last month, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, requested a six-month stay for him. US Immigration officials denied that request April 15.
He still lives with his partner and young son and has been deeply involved with a number of Irish American groups. One of his four children was deported to Ireland, and two others are under threat of deportation.
Meanwhile, Mr McAllister’s legal team has provided new evidence confirming collusion in the assassination attempt on the McAllister family in 1988. In addition, a former loyalist paramilitary leader is currently on trial in Belfast for the attempted murder of McAllister, whose family home was shot up by loyalist gunmen.
Speaking to the New York-based Irish Voice newspaper, Mr McAllister said he is at the point of exhaustion from his legal battle. He continues to fear the threat of loyalist violence against him and his family if he is deported. “I am absolutely afraid. It’s like I’ll have a red target on my back,” he said.