A group of Irish summer J-1 visa students ran amok and destroyed a home in San Francisco’s Sunset District to the point where Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan called their actions deplorable and shocking.
“The smashing of the U.S. house by Irish students is shocking, deplorable and unacceptable, however not representative of our young Irish abroad,” Flanagan said.
Alas, if this were an isolated incident it would be possible to gloss it over and talk about in terms of a few bad apples.
But year after year we come across the same dreadful type of story, with Irish summer exchange students going wild and trashing the accommodation they are staying in – though admittedly not to the shocking extent that just happened in San Francisco.
Yes, it is only a tiny minority of students who engage in such barbaric behavior, but the impact on the image of the young Irish who come to America for the summer is considerable.
Any would-be landlord reading about the wanton destruction would be deeply reluctant to rent to Irish students, the vast majority of whom would never participate in such destructive and criminal activities.
This latest incident was so appalling that the local CBS affiliate filmed the incredible damage and the shock of the poor landlady, herself an immigrant from India who thought she would lend a helping hand to the students by renting to them, given that she was once in need of a similar American helping hand herself.
The wrecking crew of students tore her place apart as thanks, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Imagine the reaction of the landlady, Ritu Vohra, as she entered her house which, frankly, looked like an earthquake had struck.
Make no mistake – the activity of the students was criminal, and the full force of the law should be brought down on those responsible. Saying sorry just isn’t going to cut it. The students who engaged in such activity should also never again have the right to enter the U.S.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and the local Irish community in San Francisco has come to the fore to offer assistance to Ms. Vohra as she begins the monumental task of making her house a home again.
The Irish in San Francisco – and there are plenty of them – are a proud and respectable group, having made their mark in all kinds of fields. They are naturally shocked and embarrassed at the criminal conduct of their fellow citizens, and have offered to help Ms. Vohra in any way that she needs. The Irish Consul General in San Francisco, Philip Grant, has also stepped up to the plate, vowing to help repair the damage and, as Grant tweeted, “rebuild the reputation of Irish J-1s in San Francisco.”
That’s not going to be easy. Those who clearly thought nothing of ransacking Ms. Vohra’s home are long gone now, but those holding dreams of coming to the U.S. for future summers will find it that much more difficult to secure accommodation thanks to their disgusting behavior.