The Department of Justice announced in the beginning of December that it would stop all deportation proceedings against six men with past connections to the IRA. The decision is the culmination of a three-year legal battle that began when each man’s case was temporarily suspended in 1997.
Gabriel Megahey, Robert McErlean, Matthew Morrison, Brian Pearson, Noel Gaynor and Gerald McDade will now be allowed to remain in the U.S. without fear of being deported to Northern Ireland. In addition, they will be able to work and travel freely throughout the United States provided they are granted work authorization annually. They will also be allowed to travel outside of the U.S., subject to the permission of the Justice Department. However, they will be unable to apply for green cards.
Bruce Morrison, an expert on immigration law and the architect of the Morrison Visas, said the action to halt the proceedings sprang from Clinton’s desire to see the issue resolved before he leaves office in January.
While the announcement was a huge victory in Irish American circles, it was tinged with some disappointment: former H-block prisoners Pol Brennan, Kevin Barry Art, Terry Kirby, and Malachy McAllister were not granted amnesty. “We’re really stunned and the family’s obviously very upset,” Diane George, lawyer for the McAllister family told The Irish Voice. “We’re trying to find out why it was done this way.”
However, as Morrison pointed out, “It doesn’t mean they can never apply for help, but they won’t be helped by this. It is possible that the next administration may try to do something.” Still, Congressman Peter King praised this step as “the first victory.” As he told The Irish Voice, “This sets the precedent and is a very important step.” ♦