July 16, 2010

Ireland to Arizona, and Back Again.

I just feel lucky I don’t live in Arizona!

This time last year I was living in East valley Arizona. I’d spent nearly a year waiting for a visa to move there. I left everything behind and got on a plane at the end of June and to cut a long story short, I was leaving for Ireland on a plane at the beginning of August.

I was lucky for so many reasons and even though the current climate here in Ireland means that I’m still looking for work, at least I had my home to come back to. Not just my family home (my parents live on the west coast of Ireland in county Mayo), but the home I’d given up when I left. Luckily my Landlord is a decent Fella, He’d heard about my plight and saved my home for me (He even re-decorated and got me some new carpets!).

Thousands of people move to Arizona every year. Desperate to start a new life, a lot of them just don’t have the time to wait for a visa and they cross the border illegally.

A lot of those get arrested and sent back across the border only for them to try to return to Arizona in the future and maybe get re-arrested and moved back over the border again.

There will always be a certain percentage of any population that deals in Drugs and crime. From an Irish point of view, we’ve suffered the arrival of some serious eastern European gangsters over the last few years, but they’re nothing compared to the home grown gangsters in places like Limerick and Shannon in the west of Ireland and some of the meaner housing estates in Dublin’s fair city.

The Irish moved to America out of desperation. Especially in the late 1900’s, when the potato famine wiped out a lot of the population and sent the rest fleeing. Before the famine, Ireland’s population was over nine million strong and it’s only in the last decade that numbers have increased to over four million.
But then again, the Irish are the biggest ethnic minority on the planet, with eighty million people world wide claiming some kind of Irish heritage.

I recently had to fill out a form, a “habitual residence condition”. I was asked questions like; “how long do I intend to stay in Ireland?” to which I replied “the rest of my life unless I get a better offer!”

See the thing is, the welfare system here is amazing, the Irish have always looked after each other. That was ok while there was the boom years or what we called “the celtic tiger” but now there’s a recession, having Nigerians and Polish people coming to Ireland claiming benefits as if they were living here, but only flying in once a month to sign on the register is just not acceptable.

But the Irish back in the times of hardship, were persecuted and pushed out. A lot of Irish people can remember the sign in a lot of London pubs “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish!”

I have Irish friends who back in the nineties, were working on well paid construction jobs AND drawing five different social welfare payments in different names and sending the money home to Ireland!

Ireland and Britain made a deal many years ago whereby, although we’re different countries, when it came down to Jobs and social security, we would be united. An Irishman can go to England and find work with no need for a permit and He can get social welfare while He searches and an Englishman can do the same here in Ireland. That way, there’s tax paid and monies going back into the economy.
I believe there was also some kind of amnesty in New York city a few years back, where illegal Irish were given social security numbers so that they could officially pay tax and there’d be monies going into the economy.

It seems to me that there’s a few ideas here that Arizona could use. Rather than spending millions of dollars each year of the taxpayers money trying to send people back over the border time and time again, as well as judging every immigrant as a potential drug dealer or welfare fraudster, they could be finding a more harmonious solution to the problem.

It’s a shame that the people writing the policies concerning migrants in Arizona have forgotten that their families are also migrants who moved to America in search of a better life.

If people aren’t made to feel part of society then they end up disrespecting society.

For my part, I just feel lucky I don’t live in Arizona!

I did however get to see some of Colorado during my short stay and It’s now one of my favourite places…. Spare room anyone?

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Tobye Hillier  |  Contribution: 6,220