Why Was an 80-Year-Old Irish Woman, 60 Years in America, Detained by U.S. immigration?

09/22/2010 08:58 am 08:58:07 | Updated May 25, 2011

When it comes to international terrorism there is Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Hezbollah and then there's 80-year-old Bridie Murphy.

Bridie is an 80-year-old Irish grandmother who has been in America, for sixty years, has a home in Boston and two sons in the U.S. military including one serving in the Middle East.

None of that counted for much when Bridie was detained at Logan Airport recently on her way back from Ireland where she had spent 10 months living with one of her children.

Traveling alone, she was taken aside, questioned and had her green card taken away from her and could still be placed in deportation proceedings. She was said to be deeply traumatized by the questioning.

You are eighty, you're alone and you're being interrogated by men in uniform. Can there be anything more frightening?

She was told her green card was no longer valid because she had stayed out of America too long.

It is not unheard of to challenge someone's status when they are less than a year out of the country.

But It is surely unheard of to challenge the bona fides of a woman who has spent 60 years living in America and who has two sons serving this country.

It is an example of an immigration policy gone seriously awry. We must control our borders but we need to have some common sense about who we are trying to prevent entering.

An 80-year-old grandmother with sixty years of residence, known as an upstanding member of her community, hardly makes the terrorist watch.

Bridie was aware that she could have a problem. Despite being here 60 years she had never become a citizen.

Many older Irish have similar stories to tell. A green card was a sufficient half-way house. The connection to the land they left remained unbreakable.

In Bridie's generation many never made it back once they left.

The piece of green they most treasured was the cover of the Irish passport.

Before she left for Ireland she had made a point of visiting the Immigration Services to ensure she had no problem

"I was told by them that since I was not going to be out for a full year, I would not need a reentry permit." she told Kieran O' Sullivan, Immigration Counselor at the Irish Pastoral Centre in Quincy, MA. as quoted in the Irish Emigrant newspaper.

A re-entry permit is given when a green card holder is leaving the US for up to two years, which Bridie clearly never intended to do.

Chris Lavery, an immigration attorney for the Irish Pastoral Centre told the newspaper that:

"Unfortunately, this is an example of overzealous immigration authorities applying the letter of the law in a manner that defies logic. A moment's thought and compassion could have avoided a great deal of stress and worry for Bridie."

Mrs. Murphy was later set free but her Green Card was taken from her.

Lavery has said he will represent her her free of charge at her upcoming hearing. He hopes to have her green card handed back.

"I'm very glad that organizations like the Irish Pastoral Centre are there to spot cases like this and help people like Bridie. I am very confident that the Immigration Court will take a very dim view of the immigration authorities for wasting its time with this case." Lavery said.

Meanwhile he asks that people who know Bridie Murphy personally, write letters in support of her case. These will be presented to the judge at the hearing.

Incredible, that an 80-year old woman now need evidence from friends and neighbors that she is no danger to the security of the United States.

Meanwhile her son is fighting for this country in the Middle East.

There is something badly wrong with this picture.