Eleanor Martin, SCN, has been advocating for the disadvantaged for decades and currently carries out this mission with the IIIC. Read about her great work in the 2011 Summer Newsletter from the IIIC here, or below.
The Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) has supported Irish immigrants since 1989 working to help people enter an integrated society with respect, dignity and equal opportunities.
Sister Eleanor Reunites Immigrant Families
After an immigrant receives refugee or asylee status, Sister Eleanor Martin sets to work. One of IIIC’s three staff attorneys, she assists individuals at every stage of becoming American citizens. Her typical caseload is 40 to 60 clients from more than 100 countries, including Ireland, Haiti, Iran, Ethiopia and Tibet.
Her father ignited her interest in the wider world. A veteran of WWII and manager for H.P. Hood, he taught her to read the editorials at age five. When she was seven, they watched the Army-McCarthy hearings together. She knew all the characters. “I’d say, ‘There’s that guy Herb Cohn,’” says Sister Eleanor. She smiles broadly at the memory.
She dreamed of entering the Foreign Service. But in the early 1960s, women weren’t admitted to Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Undeterred, she sought another path. She became a novitiate at the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Embracing their mission of social justice on an international scale, she has spent decades advocating for the disadvantaged. Three years ago, drawn to organization’s soup-to-nuts approach to immigration services, she joined the IIIC.
Sister Eleanor’s blend of empathy, knowledge, tenacity, and resourcefulness makes a difference. She remembers helping a young couple just starting out, an Irish man married to an American. Sister Eleanor helped him acquire a green card. “He’s a carpenter, an electrician, and a hard worker,” she says. “And she’s a nurse. You know they’re going to make [this country] better.”
Sister Eleanor is dedicated to helping victims of persecution. One such woman was tortured for providing health care in her home country, and her husband was murdered. To survive, she was forced to leave her children with relatives. She fled, and fortunately found her way to the United States and to the IIIC. Over the course of two years, Sister Eleanor and the IIIC staff have helped the mother acquire her green card, brought over each of her five children, got them green cards, and assisted in getting healthcare and counseling for some family members. The mother and oldest child are now gainfully employed and the youngest children attend school.
In a sense, theirs is a typical IIIC story. People arrive, often against tremendous odds, and they get to work. They understand education is key to making their way in this new country. “Parents come in to the IIIC with their children, who carry their school books.” Sister Eleanor points to the table. “And they study.” With perseverance, a strong work ethic, and Sister Eleanor at their side, these immigrant families continually revitalize America.