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Obama's Immigration Action Brings Joy, Sadness For Undocumented Irish

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: I'm Tovia Smith at an Irish pub in Boston.

KEVIN FAGAN: (Foreign language spoken) That means welcome.

SMITH: Bartender Kevin Fagan was pouring drinks here the night of the president's announcement, for those celebrating as well as those drowning their sorrows.

FAGAN: There was joy in one corner and sadness in the other.

SMITH: In the happy camp, he says, a single mom who's never been able to introduce her daughter to her family.

FAGAN: So now, hopefully, she'll be able to parade the lovely child around back in County Derry in Ireland.

SMITH: But on the disappointed side, Fagan's friends who've been married 14 years, but were unable to have kids and are therefore in eligible.

FAGAN: And I feel bad enough about that in the first place. And now it's really coming back to bite them, you know? You have them - I won't say crying, you know, like but it's kind of a tough, you know?


JEANNIE KANE: Hello this is Jeannie. Can I help you?

PAULINE: Hi, Jeanie. This is Pauline.

SMITH: Many of Boston's estimated 12,000 undocumented Irish have been calling the International Irish Immigrant Center for help.

PAULINE: Are we able to travel home to see our family?

KANE: That's a good question.

SMITH: The Irish foreign minister tweeted a warning to undocumented Irish in the U.S. to check with a lawyer before coming home for Christmas. Attorney Jeannie Kane says there's a lot of uncertainty, short and long-term.

KANE: This could be taken away by the next administration. We just don't know. But on the other hand, you know, in the past there's been executive action and then that's turned into some kind of permanent status years later. And only the people who registered actually get the status. So it's hard to advise people.

SMITH: Back at the pub, bartender Kevin Fagan calls the president's plan a great first step, but just a few barstools away, Russell William, whose family emigrated from Ireland a generation ago, calls it tragic.

RUSSELL WILLIAM: We all came from someplace, but we came legally. We waited in line, our families did. That's the way it should be.

SMITH: My heart goes out, Williams says, to those who've been playing by the rules. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.

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