IIIC Legal Clinics – Twenty Years Strong

By John Rattigan – IIIC Outreach Coordinator

This year the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding. Yet, we would be remiss in not acknowledging another milestone anniversary which has contributed so much to services provided by the IIIC.

It was in 1994 that a young attorney by the name of Eoin Reilly decided that the Irish community in Boston was sorely in need of a resource to provide immigration legal assistance. Eoin was only a few years out of law school and his practice concentrated in the field of immigration law. In collaboration with the IIIC, Eoin set up shop one evening a month at the Kells Pub in Allston to offer free consultations to any member of the Irish community who cared to stop by. This particular type of venue was chosen not only because it was frequented by Irish immigrants but many of the clientele were not documented and only felt comfortable in such a setting. In the early years Sheila Gleeson, former Director of Immigration Services at the IIIC, remembers many a clinic at the Kells that didn’t end until after midnight as Eoin finished up the last of his consultations.

Eventually, more immigration attorneys were recruited by Eoin and the legal clinic model he established has been replicated successfully. Today the IIIC has more than one dozen volunteer attorneys who give freely of their time to staff our legal clinics in Boston, Brighton, South Boston and Dorchester.

In 2011 Roderick Ireland, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, presented Eoin with the prestigious John Adams Pro Bono Publico (“For the public good”) Award in recognition of the establishment of the IIIC community legal clinic program.

This past year immigrants from over 120 different countries took advantage of the weekly clinics. And during the past twenty years, we have had visitors from all of the other five New England states. On one occasion a few years ago, I recall that a woman from New York City took a bus to Boston just to attend an afternoon clinic and later returned to Manhattan that evening.

The IIIC is very grateful not only to the attorneys but also to the volunteers who staff the clinics and act as note takers during the consultations. Both the attorneys and volunteers come to a clinic after a full day at their usual work and don’t return home until well past the dinner hour.

Also, such services would not be possible without the cooperation of our partners who graciously offer the space needed to hold the community clinics. The IIIC salutes the Catholic Charities Laboure Center in South Boston, Saint Mark’s Church in Dorchester and the Green Briar Irish Pub in Brighton Center for their longstanding hospitality.

The IIIC community clinics are still going strong after twenty years and in the spirit of “Together for All” they will continue for as long as they are needed!

Suicide Prevention Training at the IIIC

In the wake of Robin Williams’ death last week, suicide prevention trainings such as the IIIC’s Question Persuade Refer (QPR) have taken on a new significance for many people.

Only the week before, Danielle Owen, Director of the Wellness Services at the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), traveled to New York to facilitate a QPR Suicide Prevention workshop hosted by the New York Irish Center located in Long Island City. Attendees included staff from the NY Irish Center as well as the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and the Aisling Irish Center. Among the Irish born residents, some local sports celebrities joined the workshop including John Duddy (former middleweight boxing champion from Derry and current star of the theater production, “The Flood”) and John Riordan (sports columnist for the Irish Examiner). Twenty-seven workshop participants received training certificates as QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeepers.

According to Danielle, “We had a great conversation about how all communities have the power to stop tragic deaths by suicide and agreed they all now felt more confident about responding effectively to help someone in need. The tagline for the QPR program is ‘Ask A Question, Save A Life’ and sometimes it can be just as important as that.”

If you would like to become a QPR Community Gatekeeper and learn how you too can prevent suicide in your community, call Danielle today 617-542-7654 ext.14 and register for our upcoming QPR Workshops at the Irish International Immigrant Center this Fall.

Immigration News

Beware of immigration scams

Q: I hear that there are a number of scams being practiced on immigrants in the US. How can they protect themselves?

A: There are indeed many immigration scams, with new ones appearing all the time. One common example involves a telephone call to an immigrant from someone claiming to be from a federal agency such as the Department of Homeland Security. The caller claims that there is some discrepancy in the agency’s information on the immigrant, and that there is a penalty that must be paid to clear it up. Next – you guessed it – the caller instructs the immigrant to wire money to an address provided. Real US immigration officers will never ask for money over the telephone, nor will they seek personal financial information such as bank account or Social Security numbers, which can be used in identity theft.

A similar scam targeting anyone, not just immigrants, has been encountered frequently in recent months. This involves a call from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service who asserts that there is a tax deficiency that needs to be cleared up right away to avoid prosecution. The victim is invited to pay the “deficiency” by providing bank account information to the caller. In reality, the IRS never contacts taxpayers by telephone to discuss issues with tax returns.

The general principle to remember with regard to telephone scams is that one never should give out sensitive information or send money to anyone. This applies to all unsolicited telephone calls, emails, and other communications, whether they relate to immigration, sales offers, investment opportunities, claims that relatives need money in an emergency, and so on.

It also is important for those seeking immigration benefits to be very careful in dealing with anyone offering application support online. Aside from outright fraud, there also is a large risk that web sites will contain outdated or incorrect advice. And beware in particular those web sites that are dressed up to look like official government sites, using symbols such as the seal of the United States, the US flag, photos of President Obama, etc. But it is easy to recognize authentic official web sites: they always end in the suffix .gov, never .com, .net, etc.

Note also that all government application forms are free. USCIS forms can be downloaded from www.uscis.gov. Never pay anyone for copies of blank forms. And never pay application fees to third parties; these fees are always paid directly to the government in accordance with instructions on the application forms.

The safest course for prospective applicants is to visit one of the Irish International Immigrant Center’s weekly legal clinics for a free, confidential consultation with an immigration lawyer concerning any applications that you are planning to file. See www.iiicenter.org for the schedule of legal clinics.

Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases. Immigration law is always subject to change. US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the US Department of State frequently amend regulations and alter processing and filing procedures. For legal advice seek the assistance of IIIC immigration legal staff.

J-1 Summer Students Say Goodbye

Here at the Irish International Immigrant Center’s Cyber Cafe, as the summer is winding down, we are helping J-1 summer students figure out their travel plans. We have helped students with printing out flight information, finding bus tickets to airports, and planning exciting last weekend trips to NYC.

We have all enjoyed spending time with the J-1 summer students so much this summer and will miss them all greatly. They added such a great atmosphere to our office this summer and kept coming back. Our Cyber Cafe intern, Ali Rice, stated that "Every Irish student I met this summer was kind and friendly, coming into the center for help with a great attitude. I am so glad I got a chance to meet so many wonderful students this summer!" The positive energy that each student brings into the center is really appreciated by all the staff at the IIIC.

We would like to thank all those in the community that reached out to us to provide housing and employment options. We have gotten amazing feedback from the students about their experiences and time working for the summer. We already cannot wait for all the J-1 students to arrive next summer!

Quote of the Week

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” - Leo Buscaglia