Irish immigration centers across the U.S. are reporting an upsurge of new Irish immigrants calling and visiting their offices during the month of January. Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers, told the Irish Voice that there has been a "a visible increase in the number of new young people" coming to the center in the Yonkers/Woodlawn area of New York. Kelleher reports many new people touching base with the center, sometimes on a daily basis, to enquire about employment and accommodation. "At the moment we are, surprisingly, seeing more females than males looking for jobs," said Kelleher. The average age of individuals appearing at the front desk at the Aisling Center is 24. According to Kelleher, several of them are highly educated or have several years of work experience under their belt. "Things are very quiet at the minute in the hospitality industry, but we will do our best to help them out," said Kelleher, adding that the young men and women are "coming to us from all parts of Ireland." While in the past young people would have come for the legal 90-day travel period and left when their time had expired, Kelleher said that most, if not all, the individuals they have encountered in the past few weeks are claiming that there is no employment in Ireland and they plan to stay in the U.S. long term. Kelleher warms people about the consequences of overstaying the 90-day visa waiver period and advises individuals who wish to stay longer to seek out sponsorship from an employer. Similar to the Aisling Center, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, with offices in Queens and Woodlawn, is also reporting an upsurge in new faces at their offices in both locations seeking information regarding employment and accommodation. "Although the numbers aren't huge, they are definitely up from December," said Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the center. Dennehy said that the center has also received numerous calls from immigrants seeking information on the new J-1 visa exchange program currently available, albeit only to those who have just completed or are still in a third level college institution. "We have gotten a lot of calls from people wanting to know if they are eligible for the new J-1 visa," said Dennehy, adding that there have also been enquiries from previous green card holders currently residing in Ireland about returning to the U.S. "People who once had a green card but moved home are now looking to come back and are calling the center for information about that," she said. Thomas Keown also reports new faces at the Irish Immigration Center in Boston. "We have certainly seen a trickle of new people in Boston over the last few weeks," said Keown. Keown cites the rapidly downward spiraling economy in Ireland for the influx of new young people. "Most of these people have left Ireland for reasons of work, mostly because they have lost a job." Keown said that he is confident more and more Irish people will descend upon the U.S. come the spring or the summer. "A lot of people are just waiting for the bad weather to be over," said Keown. Most of the centers report that it is usually two or three people that come together. "It's rare that they come alone to New York unless they have friends or relatives here before them," said Kelleher. Kelleher also points out that several more immigrants are coming to New York and various parts of the U.S. and don't utilize the services of an immigration center, thus pushing the numbers of new immigrants entering the U.S. on a daily basis higher than can be recorded. Celine Kennelly, executive director of the Irish Pastoral Center in San Francisco is also having the same experience on the West Coast. "We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of people coming to San Francisco," said Kennelly, saying they have been busier since November with job inquiries. Kennelly also said they have had numerous inquires regarding the new J-1 visas.
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