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Emma, alongside her US-born husband Jake, took forward a lengthy high profile court challenge against the British Home Secretary over her right under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement to be accepted as an Irish citizen and to be able to access her European Union family reunion rights. The case has been described as the first human rights case of the Agreement and resulted in substantial changes to UK law.


DeSouza argued that she had always identified as an Irish citizen, as is her right under the Agreement, and had only ever held an Irish passport, and never a British one. The Home Office declared that she must either reapply as a British citizen or renounce her British citizenship. A First Tier immigration tribunal found in her favour but the Upper Tribunal overturned that decision when the Home Office appealed. Nevertheless, the Home Office granted Jake leave to remain, and the UK government changed UK immigration law to include a "person of Northern Ireland", defined as "an Irish citizen, or a British citizen, or a dual British and Irish citizen" into immigration rules. These changes were made weeks before the case was due back in court and was hailed as a significant victory for Desouza.

DeSouza gained the support of the majority of Northern Ireland's political parties, the Irish government, Scottish National Party, the Labour party, European Commission, and members of both sides of US congress.


Immigration solicitor Una Boyd stated that, "The impact of these changes on families who would otherwise be separated by the UK Immigration Rules can’t be overstated."


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar singled out DeSouza for praise during an address to an audience in Washington, D.C., which included U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, at the National Building Museum.


Families across Northern Ireland benefitted from the changes to UK law.

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