John Burnett / NPR
When NPR last heard from the young Irishman Dylan O & # 39; Riordan, he was desperately waiting in a prison in Boston to be deported to the country of his birth.
His parents brought him when he was 12 from County Galway to Boston. He lived there quietly for eight years, worked for a roofer and married.
Last year O & # 39; Riordan had an abrasion with the law and was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose agents illegally targeted someone in the country as part of the deportation dragnet of the Trump government.
They put him on a one-way Aer Lingus flight to Ireland. And that's where we pick up the story.
I sit at a table in Freeney's Bar in the bustling heart of Galway. A banjo trio is driving nearby. A Gaelic football match is on TV.
The last time I saw him, he was a sad, pale prisoner with a shaved head in a yellow jumpsuit.
John Burnett / NPR
Suddenly a 20-year-old man walks up an English football shirt with a full head of hair, a reddish complexion and a broad smile.
I comment on how much better he looks.
"Thanks, I feel it, I'm just a lot happier than I am, it feels much better back," he says.
The case of O & # 39; Riordan is unusual.
Nine out of ten deportations go to Mexico and Central America to places with poor job prospects and predatory criminal gangs.
The American government has ordered him to be transferred to a peaceful, prosperous nation, and he has moved in with relatives in one of the most popular cities in Europe.
"I would not go back," he says as he picks up a pint glass. "Even if I was given [U.S.] citizenship tomorrow, I would not go back. "
He continues: "You never see real problems like you see in parts of Boston [where] there is a lot of gang violence. But everyone can get along with everyone here. You never see problems around Galway. & # 39;
O & # 39; Riordan feared the day of his deportation, January 26, but it was not as bad as he had expected. The two ICE agents who were puffing him and driving him to Logan Airport gave him a cigarette and bought him Dunkin Donuts. He says they were sympathetic when they learned that he was not responsible for his unlawful status in the country; his parents brought him here as a child. One officer was even ashamed of the task before him.
"He says: & # 39; If it were up to me, I would look for people who are worthy of being deported to where they came from & # 39 ;, # ,, remembers O & # 39; Riordan. "& # 39; This is the part of the job I hate when I see someone who really does not deserve it, who really does not have any big crimes or anything like that. & # 39;"
While O & # 39; Riordan looked at news from across the Atlantic, he saw the crackdown on illegal immigration in the United States – in which he was arrested – even more extreme. The Trump government began its "zero tolerance" policy that led to the separation of approximately 2,500 children from their parents at the southwest border.
"When I first saw it, I thought, okay, this must be fake news," he said. & # 39; Then I saw it on CNN, it's real, the kids in the cages in Texas, it's ridiculous what's going on there. & # 39;
In Galway, O & # 39; Riordan skateboards. He goes to the pub for a pint. He looks at football. And he is about to start a new job as a bricklayer. He misses his wife, Brenna, and his daughter, Delila, terribly. He Face them every night in Boston. He is enthusiastic about having plans to move to Ireland later this year.
Dylan O & # 39; Riordan knows, altogether, that he is so much better than the vast majority of immigrants who are now being sent home from the US.