'I Wouldn't Move Back': Deported Irish Man Creates A Life In His New Home

Aug 23, 2018
Originally published on August 23, 2018 7:22 pm

When NPR last heard from young Irishman Dylan O'Riordan, he was sitting forlornly in a jailhouse in Boston waiting to be deported to the country of his birth.

His parents brought him from County Galway to Boston when he was 12. He lived there quietly for eight years going to school, working for a roofer, and getting married.

Then last year, O'Riordan had a scrape with the law and got picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose agents have been targeting anyone in the country illegally as part of the Trump administration's deportation dragnet.

They put him on a one-way Aer Lingus flight to Ireland. And that's where we pick up the story.

I'm sitting at a table at Freeney's Bar in the roaring heart of Galway. A banjo trio is busking nearby. A Gaelic football game is on TV.

The last time I saw him, he was a sad, pale detainee with a shaved head in a yellow jail jumpsuit.

All of a sudden, up walks a 20-year-old fellow wearing an English football jersey, with a full head of hair, a ruddy complexion, and a toothy smile.

I comment on how much better he looks.

"Thank you, I feel it. I'm just a lot more happier than I was. It feels a lot better being back out," he says.

O'Riordan's case is unusual.

Nine out of 10 deportations are to Mexico and Central America to places with poor job prospects and predatory criminal gangs.

The U.S. government ordered him removed to a peaceful, prosperous nation, and he has moved in with relatives in one of the most popular cities in Europe.

"I wouldn't move back," he declares, gripping a pint glass. "Even if I was given [U.S.] citizenship tomorrow, I wouldn't move back."

He continues: "You never see any real trouble like you see around parts of Boston [where] there's a lot of gang violence. But here everybody gets along with everybody. You never see any trouble around Galway."

O'Riordan dreaded the day of his deportation, January 26, but it wasn't as bad as he expected. The two ICE agents who handcuffed him and drove him to Logan Airport gave him a cigarette and bought him Dunkin Donuts. He says they were sympathetic when they learned he wasn't responsible for his unlawful status in the country; his parents brought him here as a child. One officer even seemed embarrassed by the task at hand.

"He says, 'If it was up to me, I'd be going out looking for people who deserve to be deported back to where they came from,'" O'Riordan recalls. "'This is the part of the job I hate, when I see someone who really doesn't deserve it, who really has no major crimes or anything like that.'"

As O'Riordan watched the news from across the Atlantic, he saw the crackdown on illegal immigration in the U.S. — in which he was nabbed — grow even more extreme. The Trump administration began its "zero tolerance" policy that led to the separation of some 2,500 children from their parents at the Southwest border.

"When I first seen it I thought, okay, this has to be fake news," he said. "Then I seen it on CNN. It's real! The kids in the cages down in Texas. It's ridiculous what's going on down there."

In Galway, O'Riordan skateboards. He goes to the pub for a pint. He watches football. And he's about to start a new job as a mason. He terribly misses his wife, Brenna, and his infant daughter, Delilah. He FaceTimes them in Boston every night. He's excited that they have plans to move to Ireland later this year.

Dylan O'Riordan knows, all things considered, he has it so much better than the vast majority of immigrants being sent home from the U.S. these days.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of a young Irishman who got swept up in the Trump administration's deportation dragnet. After spending his entire adolescence in the U.S., he was arrested and sent to Dublin to start a new life. Our reporter John Burnett recently checked in with the deportee to see how he's doing. He sent us this postcard from Galway.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: When we last heard from Dylan O'Riordan, he was sitting in a jailhouse in Boston, waiting to be deported to the country of his birth. His parents brought him from County Galway to the U.S. when he was 12. He lived here quietly for eight years, going to school, working for a roofer, getting married. Then last year, he had a scrape with the law and got picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who've been targeting anyone in the country illegally under Trump's tough new rules. They put him on a one-way Aer Lingus flight to Ireland. And that's where we pick up the story.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Whoo-hoo (ph).

BURNETT: I'm sitting at a table at Freeneys' Bar in the heart of Galway. A banjo trio is busking nearby, and a Gaelic football game is on the TV. The last time I saw Dylan, he was a sad, pale detainee with a shaved head wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit. All of a sudden, up walks a 20-year-old fellow wearing an English football jersey with a full head of hair, a ruddy complexion and a toothy smile.

Dylan, you look so much better.

DYLAN O'RIORDAN: Oh, thank you.

BURNETT: Yeah.

O'RIORDAN: Thank you. I feel it. Like, I'm just a lot more happier than I was, you know?

BURNETT: Yeah.

O'RIORDAN: It just feels a lot better being back out.

BURNETT: Dylan's case is unusual. Nine out of 10 deportations are to Mexico and Central America, to places with poor job prospects and predatory criminal gangs. The U.S. government ordered Dylan removed to a peaceful, prosperous nation. He's moved in with relatives in one of the most popular cities in Europe.

O'RIORDAN: I wouldn't move back. Even if I was given citizenship tomorrow, I wouldn't move back.

BURNETT: Why?

O'RIORDAN: It's just you never see any real trouble like you would around some parts of, like, Boston. Like, there's a lot of violence, gang violence, everything. But around here, everybody gets along with everybody. You never see any trouble around Galway.

BURNETT: Dylan dreaded the day of his deportation, January 26, but it wasn't as bad as he expected. The two ICE agents who handcuffed him and drove him to Logan Airport gave him a cigarette and bought him Dunkin Donuts. He says they were sympathetic when they learned he wasn't responsible for his unlawful status in the country. His parents brought him here as a child. One officer even seemed embarrassed by the task at hand.

O'RIORDAN: He says, this is the part of the job I hate, is when I see someone who really doesn't deserve it and who has really no major crimes or anything like that. He said, this is the part of the job that I really hate.

BURNETT: As Dylan watched the news from across the Atlantic, he saw the illegal immigration crackdown that nabbed him grow even more extreme. The Trump Administration began its zero tolerance policy that led to the separation of some 2,500 children from their parents at the southwest border.

O'RIORDAN: When I was - when I first seen it, I thought, OK, this has to be, like, a fake news site. Then I seen it on, like, CNN, everything. I was like, oh, it's real. Like, the kids in the cages down in - where is it? - Texas, is it? It's ridiculous what's going on down there.

BURNETT: In Galway, Dylan skateboards. He goes to the pub for a pint. He watches football. And he's about to start a new job as a mason. He terribly misses his wife, Brenna, and his infant daughter, Delilah. He FaceTimes them in Boston every night. He's excited that they plan to move to Ireland later this year. Dylan O'Riordan knows all things considered, he has it so much better than the vast majority of immigrants being sent home from the U.S. these days. John Burnett, NPR News, Galway, Ireland.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARK KNOPFLER'S "WILD MOUNTAIN THYME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.