J1 Berkley Tragedy
June has been one of the saddest months in the history of the J1 student summer work visa program. Sadly, on June 16th when many Irish J1 students were celebrating a friends 21st birthday in Berkley California, a balcony collapsed with 13 people on it. The collapse resulted in the deaths of six people, five Irish nationals and one Irish American. Newspapers are reporting that the balcony collapsed due to severe dry rot in the wood attaching the balcony to the building. This was in no doubt a national tragedy for Ireland and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the additional seven injured students.
The response by the Irish community worldwide to this horrible tragedy has been un-paralleled. Minister for Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, sums this up best when he said "I've never seen such an outpouring of love, genuine sympathy and grief from the whole country. Irish people support each other in time of need." The support of the entire Irish community extended globally demonstrating the unity of the entire Irish community worldwide.
The response to this tragedy in Chicago was truly moving. A vigil was held at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago on June 17th. This was organized by J1 students in Chicago and a hundreds of students attended. It was clear to see that this tragedy has deeply affected a significant number of young people.
Chicago Irish Immigrant Support has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Irish community in Chicago has had their chance to pay their respects to the victims of the Berkley disaster as well as offer support to friends and families of the victims. CIIS has done this in two ways. First CIIS has started up a fund to raise money for the families of the victims. This fund has currently generated more than $242,000 for the victims and their families. CIIS has handed control of the fund over to the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center (IIPC) in San Francisco as they have closer contact with the families of the victims. CIIS is very proud to have participated in such a successful fundraising campaign and is extremely happy to have partnered with the IIPC in this project. The fund is still open and accepting donations for anyone who would still like to donate to the families. The link follows: http://www.gofundme.com/J1tragedyfund
Next, CIIS held a memorial mass at the Irish American Heritage Center on Sunday June 21st. This mass gave the Irish community in Chicago a chance to pay their respects to everyone involved in this tragedy. Over one hundred fifty people attended this service. The collection during Mass generated significant funds for the families of the tragedy. I would like to thank Fr. Moore, Fr. Obrien, Consul General of Ireland Chicago Aidan Cronin, and all of the J1 students who helped us with this service. Also, I would like to thank everyone who has supported the victims or the Berkley tragedy in any way. Your contribution and support has been internationally recognized. THANK YOU!
CIIS is continuing to host legal clinics for anyone who might have immigration questions. These clinics are currently being held once a month by appointment only. Each clinic provides a client with a 30 minute face to face consultation with a fully qualified immigration attorney. Our next legal clinic is being held on Thursday July 9th from 5:30pm-8:30pm. We have another legal clinic scheduled for Thursday August 13th from 5:30pm-8:30pm. Please call (773) 282-8445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your appointment.
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