The Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston has been heavily criticized in a report issued by the Irish Government. The center, which receives Irish Government funding, could “greatly improve” how it interacts with Irish students and graduates it helps on US internship programms.
The Boston based center was criticized in the Department of Foreign Affairs report for the way it handled the case of an intern at IrishCentral. She was forced to leave the US after the center withdrew its sponsorship of her visa following her admission that she had to take paid employment to survive here. The center later apologised to the intern.
The writers of the report, Boston-based attorneys John Foley and Bill McNally concluded the center communicated “in a clear but perhaps overly firm and unrelenting fashion” to the intern.The center first discovered the intern had worked for pay in an IrishCentral blog she wrote on her personal experience in the US.
The blog appeared in the Irish Emigrant newspaper. The center then phoned the intern to tell her she had violated the terms of her J1-IWT intern program and that they were officially changing her status to “program completed,” giving her 30 days to leave the country.
The center was the focus of outraged comments for days after, with many accusing them of turning the young girl into authorities rather than just issuing her a warning.
Foley and McNally reported that press and blog reports of the incident with the intern pointed to “a heavy-handedness" in the interaction between the IIIC and the intern.“We do feel the IIIC can do a better job managing this difficult interface between itself and the interns,” said the report, published yesterday. “For instance, one aspect of this incident that would appear harsh to those unfamiliar with the field was a demand by the IIIC for the intern’s precise departure details.
”The US Department of State requires these details but the center should have communicated this better to the intern. . . . We feel it is critical for the IIIC to examine its ‘tone’ and persona as it shapes its interaction with its clients. This will perhaps lead to fewer incidents of rancour and bad publicity similar to the one it has just experienced.”
Following this experience, the center has proposed changes including the information it provided to interns and offering professional development training for staff.
"While the center was correct in the substance of its communications with the intern, the means of delivery can be unduly blunt and appear harsh to the recipient,” the report said.
The center was also praised in the broad review of its operations for “delivering a very valuable bundle of services to immigrants in general and to the Irish immigrant community in particular.”
There have been 520 Irish students and graduates who have participated in the J1-IWT internship programme through the IIIC, of whom 370 have completed the program.
“The general quality of its services appears to be high,” the report said. “It was described by one DOS [department of state] official as the ‘gold standard’ of the agencies working on the implementation of the J1-IWT program.”
The Irish Government provided the centre with $260,000 of public funding last year for legal support, health programs for immigrants struggling with substance abuse, and suicide prevention.