25 great years to remember at the Irish Voice
Senior Editor Debbie McGoldrick recalls the highlights
The IIRM’s efforts culminated with the advent of the Morrison visa program in the fall of 1990, a towering achievement that’s testimony to the true grit and indomitable spirit of the grassroots Irish.
I left the Echo after three great years and headed for enemy territory, the Voice. I started writing the paper’s “Green Card” advice column and covering immigration issues, and I’ve been here ever since doing basically everything and anything.
It’s been a fascinating 25 years. Our Irish American community is many different things – generous, feisty, relentless, enduring -- but the one thing it’s not is boring!
I’ve personally had so many highlights since joining the staff in 1991, but two of them stand out.
Year One of the Morrison visa program came not long after I arrived.
It was thrilling to witness, the anticipation of thousands of young Irish finally being given a chance to step out of the shadows after years of living undocumented, unfulfilled lives.
The weekend for the U.S. Postal Service – remember them?! – to accept applications by mail came in October of 1991. First in, first served was the rule during year one of the visa program, and the more entries you submitted, the better your chances of scoring a coveted green card.
The Irish Voice hired a van and offered applicants the chance to drop off their letters, which we would then drive down to Merrifield, Virginia, where the processing post office was located. We investigated when the office would open to start postmarking letters so that our arrival would be perfectly timed in the hopes of ensuring maximum success.
The van we originally rented had to be upgraded to a large U-Haul. Our office, which was then on Park Avenue South, was inundated with anxious hopefuls dropping off bags full of applications – even The New York Times came in to photograph the huge sacks of mail we were entrusted with.
Many of us on staff at the time made the trip down the Jersey Turnpike to help deliver the tens of thousands of applications we had. But we were far from the only ones. Merrifield was a mob scene that weekend, a melting pot of nationalities from around the world, particularly Europeans and especially Irish, desperate for a rare chance at the American Dream.
The Morrison entry rules changed after that first experience, understandably. For the remaining two years applicants could mail entries that had to be received during a set time period with winners picked afterwards, thus eliminating the need for a mad dash to the post office.
I wonder how many of the envelopes we delivered to Merrifield were picked for selection. It’s gratifying to think that even one of them made it through, that one person’s life was changed forever by our efforts.
It’s a time that I’ll never forget – and unfortunately it’s impossible to think of it ever being repeated, given the immigration stalemate that’s currently afflicting the country.
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