Ronnie Millar, IIIC Executive Director
In relation to the recent J-1 IWT incident in New York when the IIIC ended the internship program of an Irish graduate we wish to communicate the following facts:
Could the IIIC have handled the situation better?
YES – On behalf of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), I want to apologize for the recent incident involving the Irish graduate in New York City on the J-1 IWT (Irish Work and Travel) visa program under our sponsorship. My apology is sincere and unequivocal. At the same time however, it is also my responsibility as the IIIC’s Executive Director to clarify this situation now that our dedicated, hard- working staff has repeatedly been unfairly maligned and certain untruths seem to have taken hold as “fact” when they are the furthest from it.
We recognize that our communications with the intern could have been handled with more sensitivity. We are performing a review of the incident and our operating procedures for the J-1 IWT Visa program. This review will be chaired by two people from outside the organization, and we are committed to making the changes that are recommended.
Did the IIIC “turn in” an Irish J-1 graduate to immigration authorities?
NO – The IIIC did not contact, phone or e-mail Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or the US Department of State. After our phone call with the intern, we changed her status to “Program Completed” – not “Terminated” — and by doing so we ensured that no red flag was raised on her case, and that she would be able to return to the United States in the future. We tried to make this as soft a landing as possible. There are a number of reasons that programs end before their end date such as illness, homesickness etc. To all appearances, she could have been going home for any reason. We followed up the phone call with a letter.
When the publisher of the Irish Central website informed us that an article attacking us was going to be immediately published on irishcentral.com, only then did we call our program manager at the Department of State about the situation, as we are explicitly required to do by US regulations whenever there is “any serious problem or controversy which could be expected to bring the Department of State or the sponsor’s exchange visitor program into notoriety or disrepute.”
Can the IIIC be trusted?
YES – For the past 24 years, the Irish International Immigrant Center has been helping Irish immigrants and young people come to the United States. We care deeply about the Irish people who are finding their homes in Boston and throughout the country. Throughout the past four years as a visa sponsor for the J-1 Irish Work and Travel program, the IIIC has helped over 420 Irish students and graduates to find internships in their areas of study. With our legal and social services programs we have helped thousands more. Our work has been recognized many times. Most recently, Irish President Michael Higgins bestowed on IIIC’s founding Executive Director, Sister Lena Deevy, LSA, the first annual Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for Irish community support.
Does the IIIC profit from the J-1 IWT program?
NO – We do not profit from the J-1 IWT program. The visa administration fees do not cover our costs. IIIC’s fees are the lowest of all J-1 internship sponsoring organizations. We subsidize the program from our general operating funds, so it costs us more to run the program than we receive. We are a non-profit charitable organization.
What are the regulations of the program?
The J-1 IWT program requires that we follow the strict regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of State. If we do not, we risk losing our authorization to sponsor J-1 IWT visas and hundreds of young Irish graduates and students will lose a great opportunity. All program participants are reminded at least five times about the rule that that they cannot work in unauthorized employment and casual labor outside of their approved internship placements. All participants sign a statement explicitly acknowledging that they understand this rule.
May participants work in an unpaid internship?
YES – There is, however, a requirement in the rules that participants demonstrate that they have adequate financial resources to live in the U.S. during the period of their internship. Having a paid internship normally satisfies this requirement. In the case of unpaid internships, interns are required to provide proof by means of bank statements that they have adequate resources, typically from savings or contributions from their families.
IIIC’s staff and volunteers are completely dedicated to helping Irish students, graduates and Irish immigrants have a positive experience in the United States. As we continue to work toward this goal, we hope that people will keep in mind their dedication as this matter is resolved.
If you have further questions on this matter, please contact Ronnie Millar at 617.542.7654 ext. 35.