By Patrick Markey
Irish immigrants living in Philadelphia will have a new place to turn for assistance next week when a new immigration center opens in the region.
The Philadelphia Immigration Resource Center will operate as an outreach and advice center for the area’s growing Irish immigrant population, according to Tom Conaghan, one of the founders and head of the local Federation of Irish American Societies. Located at 18 East Eagle Rd. in the Havertown area of Delaware County, the new center will open for business in the first week of December.
Although other major cities with large Irish populations, such as New York and Boston have had established immigration centers for several years, Philadelphia has never had its own full-time operation.
The city has a large population of Northern Irish natives, and has traditionally been the destination for Irish from County Tyrone. Local concerns over immigration issues were compounded earlier this year when INS agents raided two locations in Philadelphia and deported several Irish immigrants who they claimed were working in the U.S. illegally.
While organizers call for more funding, the center will be staffed by volunteers with experience in immigration issues and attorneys will be available free of charge to offer advice and counseling, he said.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
"The goal is to eventually have a full-time immigration lawyer like any other center," Conaghan said.
Center staff will also offer advice on housing, employment and medical insurance issues, and will work closely with the Archdiocesan office for Migrants and the Irish Outreach apostolate of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Staff at the center also plan to operate a 24-hour crisis hotline to deal with personal issues and intervention counseling, Conaghan said. The center can be reached at (610) 924-0277.