Latest news from the Emerald Isle Immigration Center who are continuing to do great work for the Irish Immigrants in New York

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EIIC Client Profile: Thomas McGreal Every day, the small, hard-working staff of the EIIC provides much needed assistance to the immigrants of New York City. It is a privilege to work with these aspiring citizens, who, through civic integration, have found the means to participate fully in American life. The EIIC has always placed great emphasis on American citizenship and civic engagement, and we see empowerment, integration and participation both as vital factors in the well being of the community we serve and as a hallmark of what makes this country great. Recently, we sat down with Thomas McGreal, one of our clients and a recently conferred US citizen, to talk about his roots in Ireland, his experiences with the Center, and his love for his new country.
Thomas was born in Mayo in the little town of Owenwee at the bottom of Croagh Patrick, and worked throughout his teens in retail and in bars and restaurants, while helping out on the family farm. In 1984, at the age of nineteen, he arrived in New York City to begin working with an uncle at a construction company that manufactured steel panels and repaired granite facing prefabricated in Ireland. Growing up, he says, American tourists to Ireland always had commented on how green the country looked, so his idea of New York had always been of “a concrete jungle.” He remembers still his first journey up the Henry Hudson Parkway, looking out and seeing the colors of the trees in Riverside Park. They are different colors here, he says, a different shade of green, “and I thought: it’s beautiful.” For eight years, Thomas worked on construction projects throughout the city, including in Battery Park, at the World Trade Center, and at the HRH Building on Madison Avenue. He worked, he says, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but “I was young and work didn’t scare me.” Eventually, he found himself employed at the loading dock of a haulage firm when an accident suffered by one of the firm’s drivers left the crew shorthanded. Thomas was asked if he would help out as a driver. “So I did,” he says. For his first assignment, he drove from New York to Florida and covered “the length and breadth of the state.” Other assignments took him to Maryland and Wisconsin before he found, he says, “a new home in East Brunswick, New Jersey.” Thomas has been on the road ever since, and although assignments can keep him away from home for up to three months at a time, he loves the freedom and the variety that his job provides. If he ever worked in an office, he says, “they’d need to take me out of there in a straitjacket.” It was through work that Thomas first had attained visa sponsorship, and his boss very kindly allowed him to use the office photocopier to print off 1,000 applications – “two van loads!” he says – for the Morrison visa program, the result of an Immigration Act passed in 1990, which made 16,000 visas available to immigrants from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Through that program, he first obtained a green card, but family commitments following his father’s passing seven years ago kept him out of the country for eleven months, and it was his experience at immigration on his return that made up his mind to apply for citizenship. The immigration officer, he recalls, warned him that if he had been away a month longer he would not have been readmitted to the United States, and as his plane took off, he thought to himself: “that’ll never happen again.” It was on St Patrick’s Day, over an Irish breakfast in Peekskill NY, that Thomas described his experiences to EIIC Executive Director, Siobhan Dennehy, and the following week he received a call from Carmel Rose, Immigration Counselor at the EIIC Bronx office, offering him an appointment for two days later. “Carmel,” Thomas says, “was the nicest person I had ever heard from.” Thomas is cautious and practical by nature, and takes nothing for granted. “I kept waiting for [the process] to be difficult,” he says. But as he underwent initial screening at Portchester, and as he was interviewed at Federal Plaza, he knew that he could count on Carmel’s support, and he found every immigration official he encountered to be courteous and professional. Then, one morning at White Plains courthouse, with local news camera crews on hand to witness the event, Thomas and 120 other new citizens were sworn in and conferred with their certificates of citizenship. As he walked out of the Courthouse, he says, “I felt fantastic – a weight had been lifted.” Reflecting on his journey towards citizenship, Thomas is grateful for all of the help he received along the way. “I have praised the [EIIC] to everyone I meet,” he says, “and I’d advise anyone [who needs help with immigration] to use them.” He is conscious too that his own work ethic played a large part in his success. Some people who are born in the Unites States, he says, take the freedom and the security of citizenship for granted. “But when you have to fight for something, you really appreciate it… This is home.”


EIIC Dinner Dance The EIIC held its 25th annual dinner dance on Friday October 25th at Astoria World Manner. Honored on the night were three individuals who typify the spirit of the EIIC and who each have made outstanding contributions to the Irish community: Honorable Charles E. Schumer, United States Senator; Dr. Miriam Nyhan, Historian & Co-Director of Archives of Irish America; and Rory McCreesh, President of Duce Construction.
This year, the EIIC also presented the Frank Carvill Award to John DeCourcey, a 20-year veteran of Precinct 47 in the Bronx, a tremendous asset to the Woodlawn community and a great friend to the EIIC. Our sincerest thanks go out to all of our honorees. By showcasing their achievements, we highlight some of the reasons that so many immigrants from all around the world continue to seek the hope of a better life in America.
Thank you too to our Board, our Chair, our Executive Committee, our clients, and our many donors who choose to support us both publicly and privately: the Irish Government; the New York City Council and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; other, more recent supporters, especially those who came to our aid during and after Sandy, and those who fund us on an annual and continuing basis, including the American Ireland Fund, the Community Services Society, The Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, the Irish Institute, the IBO, the Clara & Keith Miller Foundation, Celtic Charity Inc, the AOH Division 7, and the Woodlawn Friends of EIIC Committee.
Special thanks go to our Dinner Dance Chairman Kieran Conlon and our entire Journal team, as well as to the dedicated team of staff at EIIC who worked so hard to make every aspect of this year’s event such a resounding success. Your support has been crucial to the successes of the EIIC in our first twenty-five years, and will continue to be so over the next twenty-five as we strive further to serve immigrants from all over the world, including Ireland, as only we can do.


DV Lottery Reminder
Online registration for the 2015 Diversity Visa Program – also known as the Green Card Lottery – began October 1, 2013.  Registration ends Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). 

 The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes up to 55,000 visas available each year to citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, which includes Ireland and Northern Ireland. Visas entitle their holders to live and work permanently in the United States, and bring with them a host of civic privileges and legal protections for holders and their dependents. They are a vital step on the road towards American citizenship. Entries are selected randomly, and entrants must be eligible to receive a visa by qualifying based on education or work and other requirements. Every DV entrant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years’ training or experience. To learn more about qualifying occupations, see the list of Frequently Asked Questions and the List of Occupations on the USDS website. Full instructions for the 2015 Lottery, including eligibility requirements, required information, details about selection procedure, photograph specifications and frequently asked questions, are available here. Entrants to the 2015 Lottery will be able to check the status of their applications beginning May 1, 2014.


Inside the DV Lottery with Orla Brady
As the application period for the 2015 Diversity Visa Lottery draws to a close, the EIIC spoke with Orla Brady, a client who we have helped to apply, to get an insider’s perspective on the process. Orla is from Cavan originally, and is a graduate both of University College Dublin and of the National University of Ireland. After graduating, she decided to pursue a career in publishing, but like many young Irish people she found that there were limited opportunities at home. Despite its rich literary heritage, Ireland, she says, has a relatively small publishing market, and for many people in her field, “it has to be London or New York.” In November 2012, Orla secured a J visa, which permits recent graduates the opportunity to live and work in the United States for up to twelve months. She landed in New York without having lined up a job, but quickly found work as an agent’s assistant with the literary agency, Folio. An avid reader, whose tastes range form James Joyce and Edna O’Brien to George R.R. Martin, Orla loved the work and quickly immersed herself in New York’s vibrant literary culture. “It’s great here,” she says. “There’s always some launch event or reading [to attend].” In her spare time, Orla followed in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan on a literary walking tour of Greenwich Village, and attended a night of Irish culture at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, featuring an appearance by the Broadway cast of Once and an address from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The highlight, she says, was an event hosted by Random House, at which she got the opportunity to meet one of her literary idols, the National Book Award-winning, New York-based Irish novelist Colum McCann. Unfortunately, however, Orla’s visa status eventually proved to be something of a problem for her employer. The temporariness of the J-visa, she says, can makes things difficult for smaller organizations who do not have the resources or the experience to deal with immigration complexities, such as the long-term H-visa sponsorship that becomes necessary once the J-visa expires. Eventually, Orla switched to a B tourist visa and took the opportunity to travel. Over the course of a few short months, she visited Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC and New Orleans, where she made a trip to the one-time residence of the novelist and Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner. Before she left to spend the Halloween weekend in Boston and Salem, Orla decided to stop into the EIIC’s Woodside office to apply for the DV Lottery. She had worked with the EIIC before, since he first thing that she and her friends had done upon arriving in New York was to pay us a visit. That way, they found guidance for everything that an Irish person in New York could need, including help with visa forms, employment and housing advice, and tips for where to find the best Irish food and Cadbury’s chocolate in the city! (The 61st Street Deli in Woodside is a favorite, Orla says, as is Sunnyside’s The Butcher’s Block). During her time at the EIIC, we explained to Orla the qualification requirements for DV-15, walked her through the online application process, and took her picture and formatted it in accordance with USDS requirements. Orla will be able to check on the status of her application from May 1, 2014, and if she is selected and approved for one of 55,000 visas available, she will be eligible come 2015 to live and to pursue her career in publishing in the United States. We would like to wish Orla the very best of luck in the Diversity Visa Lottery. Like many young Irish people, she has chosen the sometimes difficult road of emigration in order to pursue her chosen career, and we are glad to have been able to help. Looking to the future, Orla still is thinking of London as a back-up plan. But a career and a life in New York City, she says, would be a dream come true.


University College Cork Publishes Report on Irish Emigration The University College Cork EMIGRE report, entitled ‘Irish Emigration in the Age of Austerity’, was published last month. The result of 12 months of research – including an expansive survey of households across Ireland, an online survey, a jobs fair survey, as well as interviews with Irish emigrants abroad – the report found that 62 per cent of recent Irish emigrants were third level graduates and that rural parts of the country were disproportionately affected by emigration, with at least one household member emigrating in 25 per cent of extremely rural households since 2006. The report also concluded that 47 per cent of recent emigrants had been in full time employment prior to leaving Ireland, while another 13 per cent had been working in part time employment before their departure. Over 17 per cent of recent Irish emigrants were found previously to have worked in the construction industry. Read the full report here: www.ucc.ie/en/emigre/


Please Consider Making a Call in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Make a phone call or write a letter. Below is a a list of New York Congressional representatives, and we are asking each one of you to please get on the phone with your district’s elected representative in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
There is a real chance for legislations on reform now, and we need the support of every member of our community. Please call or, better yet, write to your Congressperson. If they have been supportive of the issue, thank them and request their continued support. Ask them to ensure that Comprehensive Immigrartion Reform is brought to the House Floor now! The message is simple:

  • For the Irish American community, the current legislation addresses the issues of 50,000 Irish undocumented and of visas for the future flow of Irish immigrants.
  • There is a passed Senate Bill and we now need the House to act.
  • The bill creates a long (13-year) but desperately needed path to citizenship for the undocumented and will secure our borders from future waves of undocumented.
  • The Law will pay for itself through fines, penalties and taxes implied on applicants.
  • Applicants must also immediately begin to learn English and pay taxes.

Have you made a call yet? Have you met or written to your legislator on immigration? If yes, thank you! If not:

  • Contact your Senators and Representatives by e-mail, phone, fax or US Mail.
  • Call the US Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or call your Members’ local offices.
  • Additional contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at: www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
  • Information on who to call in New York is listed below
A Message from Justice for Immigrants
Please send this electronic postcard to your U.S. Representatives and Senators asking that they pass just and compassionate immigration reform legislation in the 113th Congress. Simply click on the postcard below or go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org for more information.

After you have sent the postcard to your Washington, DC lawmakers, please forward this message to your email contacts throughout the country and urge them to send the e-card to their U.S. Senators and Representatives. Thank you!


IBO Celebrates its 40th Anniversary 

The Irish Business Organization (IBO) will be celebrating its fortieth anniversary on Wednesday, November 13 at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, beginning at 6:30 PM.
The IBO plays a crucial part in the success of Irish business in New York City, and they have been very kind and generous supporters of the EIIC over the years.
Come show your support and celebrate their milestone in a spectacular setting with a cocktail hour, buffet dinner, live music and an address from Senator George Mitchell, recipient of the IBO Global Leader Award. The IBO also will be honoring photographer James Higgins with the Arthur Clements Award.
Purchase tickets here at the early bird rate of $150 until October 31st, or $175 thereafter.


Daylight Savings: November 3rd
Daylight Savings end this year on Sunday November 3rd at 2:00 AM, so remember to set those clocks back!


 

Affordable Healthcare Presentations at Queens Library
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