In the middle of the 1980’s there was a large number of undocumented Irish living in the United States. At that time Irish immigrants were a group that had fallen between the immigration ‘cracks’, having missed out on the amnesty program of 1986. Because of the Irish immigrants’ long history of contributing to their adopted country it was no surprise that by 1987 the Irish community had begun to agitate for changes in immigration law. The fruits of their labor are most visible in the Morrison and Schumer Visa programs, written into the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990, which give balance and diversity to U.S. immigration policy.
One group that was very instrumental in these positive changes was the Irish Immigration Reform Movement (IIRM). The IIRM also recognized the need for a center which could provide day-to-day assistance to recent Irish immigrants, especially since many were undocumented, and in 1988 Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC) was born. In those early days a small hard-working staff and dedicated board and volunteers spent long hours helping people with important matters; bank accounts, driver’s licenses, housing, medical insurance, education and protection under the law. The Center helped thousands to apply for visas after 1990 and has since assisted many more thousands to follow through and get green cards.
Since 1990 the Center has broadened the scope of its services to include employment assistance, social services and ESL. The Center has always placed great emphasis on US citizenship and sees empowerment and participation as a vital factor in the well-being of the community it serves. In many ways, helping those who were once ‘illegal aliens’ to become U.S. citizens is enough reward for building the Center to its current position of leadership in New York’s Irish immigrant community.
Among EIIC’s funding sources are our donors, our funders at the fore front of which are the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Program in a grant administered by the Irish Abroad unit of the Department of Foreign affairs and Trade and the Consulate General of Ireland, The American Ireland Fund, The Community Services Society of New York, the New York City Council, Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Member Daniel Dromm, Oliver Koppell and Jimmy Van Bramer We recognize the former discretionary support of the New York State Assembly under Michael Cusick, and the on-going funding allocated from the Queens and Bronx Borough Presidents and the USCIS – Citizenship and Integration Grant.