By Patrick Markey
Boston’s Irish Immigration Center has become the nation’s first Irish center to be accredited by the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service to represent immigrants when they process their applications.
The INS Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C., granted to accreditation to the center last week, said Kieran O’Sullivan, the center’s immigration specialist.
O’Sullivan and another immigration specialist Sheila Gleason will now be able to legally represent immigrants before the INS, he said.
Open for almost 11 years, the Boston Irish Immigration Center provides free assistance to immigrants seeking advice on forms, citizenship, changes in immigration status and other legal applications.
With accreditation, the two representatives can appear at INS proceedings on adjustments, employment, family petitions and advanced parole in addition to a range of other immigration issues.
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The center will continue to provide general information on form filing and pro bono advice during legal clinics, O’Sullivan said.
"This opens up communication between the immigrant, the immigration center and the INS. It makes a great difference in the work we do everyday," he said.
"We are now allowed to go with immigrants and submit information and affidavits for them. A lot of immigrants are very nervous when they go to INS interviews and a lot of them like to have representation with them."
More than 150 calls a week come into the Boston main office and its outreach post. More than 75 percent are from Irish immigrants, although the center also receives calls from Hispanic, African and Asian immigrants.