The actions of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) in Boston last week, when they turned in a young Irish woman to the State department for an alleged minor violation of her visa, are hard to fathom.
The young woman was interning for our sister publication IrishCentral. She wrote a piece describing her life in America and mentioned she had worked in a bar to make ends meet.
An IIIC operative read the piece and immediately informed her that her visa was cancelled and that the State Department had been informed, essentially turning her in.
It was such an overreach that it is still hard to figure out why it was done. A phone call to the woman advising her on what she could and couldn’t do on the visa would have been more than sufficient.
Why the IIIC even made an issue if it at all when the State Department has clearly other issues to worry about is a mystery.
Their actions stepped over a red line which should never be crossed by any Irish immigrant organization, and touched off a firestorm for doing so.
The IIIC eventually figured it out and apologized, but the damage had been done.
Someone, somewhere in the organization has adopted a confrontational attitude towards new Irish arrivals that has been perpetuated over several years.
It is a clear case of bureaucratic and over-legalistic thinking overcoming the instinctive mission of these immigrant centers to help the emigrants first and foremost.
Wallowing in regulations and observing red tape is a common failure in organizations that fail to keep their mission statement front and center and regularly inform their workers of it.
All the Irish centers should take note of the massive overreach in the Boston case where the immigrant was singled out from a newspaper article and warned in a very harsh manner she had to leave the country.
Unfortunately, many instances of young Irish being treated in a hostile and bullying manner by the IIIC in the visa processing area have since surfaced.
This young girl was not an isolated case in other words and clearly the organization, which undoubtedly does good work in many areas, has forgotten what its primary mission is -- to help the Irish in the U.S.
Many young immigrants find U.S. visa regulations very difficult to deal with, complex, opaque and tough to navigate.
The J-1 graduate visa, which lasts for one year, is a complex and flawed program where the new arrival can often be in need of advice to navigate its many clauses.
Such advice is the bedrock of the many Irish immigrant centers and the vast majority do it very well, with the care and the welfare of the emigrant in mind.
The Boston experience should serve as a salutary lesson to all who deal with recent Irish arrivals about how important it is to get the outreach correct, to explain the laws but never to become an enforcement arm over a trivial matter. That is a bridge way too far as was evident in this case.
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