To the Justice Department of John Ashcroft, John McNicholl is a lifelong criminal. He also is a Catholic, and I almost never waste my time pointing this out, but in matters with John Ashcroft, I believe that his psalm-singing, right-wing, country-road religion leaves him somewhat suspicious of Catholics, if not more.
The Irish-Americans, who come up dumb again, cheer Ashcroft. He harms their kind and they like him. The Irish even think the FBI is great.
The Justice Department people hold a hammer for Irish immigrants. Work and paying taxes doesn't count. Irish in Texas and Florida report detaining and deporting. The immigration people deny this, which means it is true.
John McNicholl, 51, lived with his wife, Frances, and three children, in peace since 1984 in Upper Darby, Pa. He has applied for citizenship and has gone to the immigration office every three months to renew a work permit. His wife is a naturalized citizen and his children are citizens.
The immigration people read British reports that McNicholl, in Northern Ireland in 1972, had been involved in shooting a policeman. Someone else was convicted, but the British said he must have been guilty. Any young man in those Northern Irish towns who wasn't arrested by the British or Protestant police isn't worth talking about. The British threw him into the Maze prison. Don't worry about McNicholl. He busted out of the place and got to Philadelphia. As he was not guilty in Northern Ireland, he wrote on a visa application that he never had been arrested. Immigration people here say he lied.
Since 1995 they have believed cheap British memos about McNicholl shooting cops.
They were held off in the law courts for seven years. But when this Ashcroft came in, it became ominous.
An immigrant is like a parked car. He doesn't have to move to be in violation. A car can sit there and get tickets for a tag placed wrong, a faulty rear light, a front light, a mirror, anything. An immigrant can fill out papers, answer questions for long hours, work hard for years, show tax receipts, display papers of the three citizens in his family, and there are still a hundred reasons in print for them to throw you out of the country. And if you get a Catholic from Ireland and an Ashcroft singing a psalm, the guy gets thrown out.
They took Bernadette Devlin out of a line in Chicago, where she was changing planes to get to New York for a public speaking appearance, and sent her home. They said at 5-1 and in her 50s, she was a threat to America. Then the other day, a band from Donegal was at the Dublin airport for a flight to New York to play a benefit in the Bronx for an old neighbor, Mickey Duffy, fighting cancer. Suddenly, American immigration officers appeared and told them they were barred from entering the United States. The reason was a cheap technicality that only an Ashcroft agency could raise against Irish Catholics. The band went home. The patient's bills over here still mount.
And in the middle of July, at 5:30 a.m., McNicholl left his house as he always did for his union job as a sprinkler fitter.
He gets outside his house and he is jumped by four men in plain clothes who came out of a car. He begins to holler. Inside this house, his oldest son, Sean, 18, wakes up to the shouts.
"I thought he was in pain," he said. He ran onto the street in time to see the car driving away with his father in back.
McNicholl was allowed to call his wife at 6:30 a.m. He was in a York, Pa., detention center. He was allowed to see her for a half-hour.
"I got talking to him," she was saying on Friday night. "They had him in chains. Here is a man who worked for eight years and used his own name and lived in the same place with his family. He worked every hour they gave him. And they have him in chains."
When she left, they took McNicholl out of the place and deported him to Ireland without telling her.
She was left with no income. She goes down a couple of blocks to Paddy Rooney's Pub and cooks lunch each day and Friday dinners until 8. Of course it isn't enough. "I don't know what to do," she was saying on Friday. "I'm fixing the house up with some union friends of my husband. We have to have a new roof and a new bathroom. A new driveway. That should help the price if we have to sell." When she sells, she goes to bleak Donegal to put her family back together.
The two youngest children are there with the father. He gets them to school and looks for a job. They don't have a person getting his union wages if you took all of Donegal and shook it upside down.
That this American government of bigots from the Low IQ states can run over our Bill of Rights, grabbing somebody with no warning in the dark hours, is a terrorist act by psalm-singers. The only way to defend yourself is to vote them out. Those who don't are fans of fascism.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.