Category: Archive

Big pay day for Irish immigrant centers

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

This figure, though often the subject for considerable guessing and speculation, is the primary reason for the Irish government’s decision to substantially increase the amount of funding it gives to 13 immigrant advice and help centers in half-a-dozen American cities.
In announcing the funding increases, Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said his government believes there are between 20,000 and 25,000 undocumented Irish in the 50 states at the present time.
The U.S. government has estimated a far lower figure, less than 5,000, while some Irish opposition politicians have reached for a number as high as 50,000.
Whatever the number, there is no argument as to the view that the undocumented are in a jam.
Thousands are caught between the economic imperative of holding on to jobs in the U.S. while not being able to travel back to Ireland — even for such deeply personal reasons as family funerals — for fear of not being able to return across a U.S. frontier that is far tighter than it was pre-9/11.
Minister Ahern said that he himself had been made aware of the kind of situations that have added extra anxieties to the already onerous burden of being undocumented.
“I would have constituents who have great difficulties,” Ahern, who is also a TD representing the Louth constituency, said at a press briefing announcing the funding increase held last week at the Irish consulate in New York.
The briefing followed the now annual meeting at the consulate of the special immigration advisory committee that draws on community leaders and activists, as well as representatives of the advice centers.
This year’s meeting was bigger than those of previous years because all of the 13 centers were represented.
“There are some very sad stories of people who can’t risk coming home to visit sick parents, or attend weddings or funerals. Some of the stories are heartrending,” Ahern said.
Ahern, however, was bringing some comfort in the form of $915,000 to be shared between the 13 centers.
This sum is being made available for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins on the first of next month.
“I know that the helping hand that they extend to those in need makes a very significant difference to many Irish people,” Ahern said of the centers.
“I want to thank the committed and hard-working teams in the immigration centers for their dedication to the more vulnerable members of our community,” Ahern added in announcing the grants which together amount to a 40 percent increase over last year’s funding level.
Minister Ahern said that his government would continue to support the Irish immigration centers as they expanded their capacity to reach out to Irish people in need.
The New York meeting was, he said, an indication that the Irish government placed a high priority on the welfare of the Irish community in the U.S. “and, of course, the particular concerns of undocumented people.”
The meeting included discussion on the current state of the immigration reform debate in Washington.
Ahern and the Irish government see the greatest potential for positive change in the Kennedy/McCain reform bill now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ahern said that President George W. Bush had indicated his “huge sympathy” for the position being faced by the undocumented Irish, but that the Irish government well understood that Bush had to deal with broader considerations than just the plight of the Irish.
The centers and groups that will benefit from funding and their individual allocations are: the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, N.Y., $130,000; Aisling Irish Center, N.Y. $85,000; Project Irish Outreach, $92,000; New York Irish Center (F_ilte) $85,000; Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center, Philadelphia, $85,000; Irish Immigration Center, Boston $130,000; Irish Pastoral Center, Boston $117,000; Chicago Irish Immigration Support $63,000; Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, San Francisco, $73,000; Seattle Irish Immigration Support, $2,000; Irish Apostalate, USA, $12,000; Ocean City Irish Student Outreach, $1,000; Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, $40,000.
Since 1990 the Irish government has allocated just over $5.6 million in grants to Irish immigration centers in the U.S.

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