2004-08-06 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

Appointed To Emerald Isle Board
by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

Dr. Geraldine Chapey
Dr. Geraldine Chapey I am pleased to inform you that I have been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC). Brian O’Dwyer is the chairperson.

The Emerald Isle Immigration Center is focused on meeting the needs of the newest Irish arrivals. In addition, EIIC has a citizenship and naturalization program that assists individuals from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Australia and South America. Individuals are helped with issues relating to immigration, employment, education, social services, citizenship and the DV lottery. The Center also hosts information seminars on subjects such as the 2005 Green Card lottery.

During this year there was a significant problem with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It appears that they began sending notices to over 110,000 individuals who held valid NYS drivers licenses that because their listed social security number did not match the listing at DMV their privilege of driving in our state was subject to termination. In many cases the individuals notified were in this country legally and some had resided here for several decades.

According to Frank Schorn Esq., Vice President of EIIC, the DMV issue raised the following concerns: “(1) the improper termination of the rights of people who are lawfully in the US; (2) the effect on individuals who need to maintain existing employment where a car was necessary to get to work, or to drive trucks, deliveries, taxis etc; (3) the effect on the economy for those pushed out of employment; (4) the safety to members of the overall community where drivers were forced to become unlicensed – and therefore unable to obtain liability insurance.” This is a very serious issue affecting not only the individual involved but also the community at large. The EIIC and other immigrant groups notified the DMV of their concerns. The department finally agreed not to conduct wholesale terminations of driving privileges but to look at each case separately and evaluate it.

It appears that this issue was prompted by the US Department of Homeland Security and not by the DMV. On paper, the idea to terminate the licenses may have seemed feasible however. In fact, it didn’t work. It created more problems than it solved.

Another important issue is the large influx of J-1 students. These students are often coming to the US without any employment leads. The EIIC helps individuals to determine where employment opportunities exist. Some students are refused entrance to the US under the Visa Waiver program, which requires only a valid Irish passport. Students who are denied often are those who came to the US and overstayed their authorized period of time in the US.

As you may recall, immigrant legislation was on the front burner with President Bush in the early months of 2004. Bush proposed that US immigration policy be changed in order to permit specific individuals currently in the US and in addition some who were abroad to obtain legal status. This issue polarized individuals – those who opposed the ruling as too lenient and those who thought that it was too generous. The result is that currently the two sides are feuding which results in no new legislation being considered.

In order to continue the important mission of the EIIC (working with varied immigrant populations), the annual fundraiser will be held on Friday, October 29 at the Astoria World Manor. Please call me for further information. Please support this event.

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