My daughter Ann* is going to be six next year. She has brightly coloured pineapples on her pyjamas. She plays hurling, does gymnastics, swimming and Irish dancing. She’s in senior infants and has lots of friends at school.
Ann is a bubbly, fun and creative person. She says “I was born in Ireland. This is my country.” She doesn’t know any other home than here. She is very smart and when she grows up she wants to be a teacher and dancer. I hope that dream will come true for her.
Even though Ann was born here, she is growing up undocumented in the only home she’s ever known. As a family, we are living life in the shadows. We can’t be open about our situation – her school doesn’t know; the parents I meet every morning don’t know; we live in constant fear of being found out.
We came to Ireland to make a better life, to support our families back home. I left my other daughter who we have not seen in many years. Can you imagine what that’s like for us as parents to be torn like this – to be separated from one daughter, and trying to secure a future for both?
Ireland is Ann’s home, she has nowhere else to go. Life is very tough here for my child. She is always asking me “Why can’t we go meet my sister? What paper would I need? And why am I not getting it? My friends can go everywhere.” She says it is very unfair.
We are anxiously waiting for the regularisation scheme that the government has promised. We hope this will give us our legal status here, which will be a dream come true for us. As a mother I see the impact of growing up undocumented, and I worry about the effect this is having on her; it breaks my heart every day.
The scheme is great news, but I think about other children like Ann, who might be left out if their parents don’t meet the requirements, what future will they have? No child or family should ever experience what we have gone through.
We need the scheme to be as broad and inclusive as possible. And when it’s done, we need an ongoing pathway to papers so children can grow up, live and play freely in their home.
I hope for a good future for my family here.
Written by a parent from the Justice for the Undocumented campaign group
*Not her real name
Artwork by Ann, age 5, Dublin