Up on the Hill and Around City Hall

City Council Passes Boston Trust Act

Last week the Boston City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Boston Trust Act. Under the provisions of the ordinance, the Boston Police Department will no longer hold immigrants for possible removal unless the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has issued a criminal warrant for the arrest.

Boston joins several states, including Connecticut and California, as well as 150 communities across the country that have enacted similar legislation in an effort to remedy the unfairness brought on by the admittedly flawed implementation of the Secure Communities Act since 2006.

The passage of the Boston Trust Act is the culmination of a long and hard effort by immigrant advocacy groups and individual citizens to restore lines of communication and cooperation between immigrant residents and local law enforcement. The Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) has been actively supporting this effort from the beginning. This past year the IIIC participated in planning sessions, telephone conferences and individual advocacy meetings with City Councilors. Paul Pelan, Senior Program Director at the IIIC, spoke in favor of the Act’s passage at the City Council public hearing in late July. This is a further example of how a community, working together, can effect changes in the way we are governed.

In June, Mayor Martin J. Walsh stated that if the City Council passed the ordinance, he would sign it. “Mayor Walsh supports the Trust Act to uphold the rights of immigrants, and to maintain public safety, family unity, and due process in our City,” said Kate Norton, the mayor’s spokesperson.


Q: I plan to make a couple of short business trips from Ireland to the US in the near future, to meet with contacts, attend an industry convention, and probably do some contract negotiation. Can I do this without applying for a visa beforehand?

A: This should be possible, depending on a few factors.

The US government operates what is known as the “Visa Waiver Program” (VWP) for nationals of a number of friendly countries, including Ireland. This program allows travel to the US for up to 90 days for business or pleasure, without applying for a visitor’s visa beforehand. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are treated essentially the same as those of VWP countries for purposes of short-term visits to the US.

So, first of all, you must be a citizen (not just a resident) of one of the VWP countries. For example, a citizen of Nigeria temporarily residing in Ireland would not be eligible to travel from Ireland to the US under the VWP but would need to apply for a visitor’s visa instead, whereas a citizen of Ireland temporarily located in Nigeria could make use of the VWP.

Second, the business activity involved must fit within the US government’s definition. This does include the activities you mentioned, as well as travel for the purpose of conducting litigation. The permissible activity does not include “employment” (which can be loosely understood as doing work for pay that an American could be doing) while in the US. To work at a job in the US one needs a temporary work visa such as the H1-B or other employment authorization from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are gray areas involved in the definitions of “business” versus “employment,” so if there is any doubt you should consult an immigration lawyer before planning to travel under the VWP.

Third, travelers from VWP countries also need to be personally eligible to take advantage of the VWP. Those ineligible to enter under the VWP because of a visa overstay or other problem, for example, would have to apply for a B-1 (business visitor) visa at the local US Consulate. The permissible business activities are the same for a B-1 visa as for the VWP. The B-1 visa application process takes time and requires a fee, but it has a couple of advantages: it can be granted for up to six months, and the period of authorized stay in the US can be extended, unlike the VWP, which is strictly limited to a maximum of 90 days. Also, a B-1 visa holder can in certain circumstances apply to change status in the US to that of another visa such as a J-1 exchange visa; such status changes are not permitted under the VWP.

US immigration and consular officials can question a traveler both about the business activities planned and the intention to make the stay in the US a temporary one. So, whether traveling under the VWP or applying for a B-1 visa, you should be prepared to document your business trip (your agenda, travel and hotel arrangements, conference programs, contact information, etc.) and your intention to return home within the time allowed (a return air ticket, proof that you are still employed at home, have family and property there, etc.). People used to believe that showing up in a business suit with a briefcase and business cards in one’s pockets virtually guaranteed entry for short business trips. Post 9/11, this is not necessarily the case. So travelers must be prepared for more scrutiny of their intentions.

The safest course for prospective applicants is to visit one of our weekly legal clinics for a free, confidential consultation with an immigration lawyer concerning any applications that you are planning to file.

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

U.S. Citizenship Class Begins September 11th

There is still time to enroll for our next Citizenship Class! The Irish International Immigrant Center’s (IIIC) 6-week Citizenship Class helps to prepare students for the naturalization process including the 100-question examination and the application interview. The classes also spend time discussing civic engagement and students are encouraged to take an active role in their communities. U.S. Citizenship has many benefits, including no restrictions on travel outside the United States, the right to vote, the chance to sponsor family members to come to the U.S., and the opportunity to run for political office.

The next session of our Citizenship Class runs from September 11th to October 16th. Classes are scheduled for Thursday afternoons from 1:00-3:00 PM and Thursday evenings from 6:00-8:00 PM. The course cost is $30. To learn more about the class or to register, please come to our offices during regular business hours, or call Sarah Chapple-Sokol, Education Coordinator, at (617) 542-7654 ext. 36.

Our expert citizenship services staff can also answer any questions you have about the application process and help you complete the naturalization application. For assistance, contact Ambreen Ahmad in our Citizenship Services department at (617) 542-7654 ext. 30 or aahmad@iiicenter.org. We also offer citizenship walk-in help at the IIIC Downtown Crossing office on Monday mornings between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM and Thursday afternoons between 2:00 and 5:00 PM.

The IIIC is thankful for the support received from the Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative and the Massachusetts Office for Refugees & Immigrants.

Matters of Substance - Understanding Myths about Grief

Losing someone we love is devastating – whether death is sudden or expected, it hurts. There is no one way to grieve; grief is as unique as the individual left behind.

In my work with families and friends who are dealing with grief, I find myself referring to the wonderful work of Dr. John Jordan; a clinician and author with years of experience supporting families living with grief. He speaks often about how helpful it is when we challenge the “myths” our society traditionally holds about the process of grieving, allowing those left behind to go through their own process of grief in their own way, without the shame and guilt of unrealistic “myths” about how we “should” grieve impeding our natural progress towards recovery. Let me be clear, no matter how we lose someone we love (through illness, accident or suicide), our world is never the same.

Dr. Jordan shares a helpful image about how living with grief is like carrying a boulder. We can’t ever really “put it down” but we do what we can to make our backs stronger and manage carrying it better. We use support, self-care, counseling and other tools to find our way to a “new normal”.

Dr. Jordan highlights some of the following common myths people have about grief including:

Myth 1: Grief happens in stages

Actually, grief is experienced in “waves” or in a cyclical way; having “good days” or “not-so-good” days being used to describe the experience.

Myth 2: Grief is the same for everyone

In fact, grief is very individual so try to avoid comparing your experience of grief with others

Myth 3: Time will heal all wounds- It should take about a year

The truth is, different aspects of grief take different amounts of time

Myth 4: Time heals all wounds – Just wait it out

Instead, grief involves active self-care, efforts to adapt, & learning new skills – all of which takes a lot of time. Waiting till it “passes” is not helpful. Get help when you need it.

Myth 5: Grief involves saying goodbye and achieving “resolution” of your grief

The reality for us all is, when we lose someone, we keep that relationship bond even though they are no longer with us. We may go to their grave, “chat” to them, or imagine the loved one’s response to an event or situation.

For many, being able to lean on other family members and friends can be enough. For others however, especially for immigrants away from home, the grieving process can become a much more complicated journey. If the person they lost died suddenly (heart attack, accident, suicide), there is a chance that “traumatic grief” could occur, especially if the death is viewed as random and/or preventable. “Traumatic" deaths like these can leave those who are grieving to be at a much greater risk of “complicated mourning”, a condition that leaves the mourner with a delayed or incomplete adaptation to the loss.

These kinds of losses are the ones that often require counseling and professional help. If you are having difficulty finding a suitable resource for yourself or a friend/loved one, please don’t hesitate to call Danielle Owen, in confidence, at 617-542-7654 ext. 14 or email dowen@iiicenter.org for further information on support or referrals.



IIIC Condolences

The IIIC extends our deepest condolences to the family of former Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. We are grateful for the important contribution he made to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

We are also saddened by the passing of BBC Northern Ireland presenter Gerry Anderson who also passed away last week. He brightened the day for many listeners throughout Ireland over many years.

May they both rest in peace.

Quote of the Week

“The immigrant’s heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new. The immigrant has to bridge these two worlds, living comfortably in the new and bringing the best of his or her ancient identity and heritage to bear on life in an adopted homeland.” – President Mary McAleese