Saint Patrick’s Day quit being political to most people in the United States a long time ago. But this year, U.S. immigrant rights organizers experienced a little luck of the Irish — rather, luck of undocumented people living in Ireland. Activists dropped a banner down the front of a building on the route of Dublin’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. The banner read: “Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the undocumented in the U.S.A. from the undocumented in Ireland.”
“Here in Colorado, many immigrants, Latin American and the largely unacknowledged Irish, struggle to be fully seen and valued for what they contribute to our communities,” says Jordan Garcia, Organizing Director at the American Friends Service Committee. “Here was a message from largely Filipino and Chinese immigrants in Ireland sending a clear message of support and empathy for an almost identical plight. I hope that makes both our countries’ policymakers move toward the kind of immigration reform that these families need.”
The banner drop was organized by members of the Justice for the Undocumented campaign, a project of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.
“The banner drop on Sunday was a special and powerful moment for undocumented migrants in Ireland and the Justice for the Undocumented campaign,” wrote Helen Lowry of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland to The Colorado Independent. “We had organized a morning of activities around the drop: music, flyering, speeches, face painting, a photo booth.”
“Undocumented migrants gathered with friends and supporters to officially welcome the banner as it dropped 11 metres from the roof of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland in the centre of Dublin city,” Lowry wrote.
“Increasingly people are rearing families here in Ireland,” Lowry wrote. “Men, women and children who have put down roots, are making a valuable contribution to our economy and our communities and call Ireland home. It is our experience that undocumented migrants often live in the shadows under tremendous stress and fear of deportation. They encounter significant problems in accessing basic and essential services, such as health and education. They remain effectively cut off from visiting their extended families just like the undocumented in the U.S. They fear the authorities, in particular the police, and are reluctant to report crimes such as domestic violence, theft and racist incidents.”
“Undocumented workers are far more likely to experience poor working conditions and workplace exploitation. We are particularly concerned about the vulnerable situation children of undocumented migrants in Ireland find themselves in, many of whom have gone to school here but face very uncertain futures. Also Ireland like the U.S has benefited tremendously from migration over the past 15 years,” Lowry wrote.
“Every Saint Patrick’s Day our political leaders travel the world to promote Ireland. Every year our Taoiseach meets the President of the United States of America and discusses trade and politics, in particular highlighting the situation of undocumented Irish in the U.S. We saw it as important opportunity to remind him that the same situation exists here at home. That thousands of undocumented migrants have made a home here and are making a valuable contribution and that a solution is needed here too. We also wanted to send a message of solidarity to undocumented migrants at this important time of proposed immigration reform in the United States. We wanted to reach out across the Atlantic to extend hope and solidarity,” Lowry wrote.
[Photos: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland]