York group helping immigration detainees marks milestone

Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | Apr 11, 2013 2:44 PM

(York) -- A group that works with immigrants detained in the midstate is recognizing its beginnings by remembering an incident that happened 20 years ago.

The Golden Venture was a cargo ship carrying nearly 300 Chinese immigrants when it ran aground off New York City in June, 1993.

Federal authorities brought 120 men from the ship to the York County Prison, where they were detained for nearly four years.

York County lawyers created the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center in 1996 to deal with the legal needs of the detainees.

Executive Director Mary Weaver says in nearly two decades, the center has helped immigrants and encouraged changes to immigration policy.

"I have to believe that reasonable individuals can come together and come up with some changes to our immigration system that will benefit not only our nation, but all of the individuals and families that are involved," she says.

Weaver says roughly 84 percent of detained immigrants appear before a judge without legal representation.

She adds the center's work is as relevant today as it was nearly two decades ago.

"It is the work that PIRC still continues to do, to give a voice to those that are most vulnerable, to provide them access to justice through our legal system, and to be sure that their stories are told," Weaver says.

The center is remembering the stories of the Golden Venture through a public event at York College on April 18 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Room 218 of the Humanities Building.

The event includes a display of artwork created by the Golden Venture detainees while they were in the York County Prison.

The exhibit will be open to the public from 5 to 6 p.m. and 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., in concurrence with a film screening and discussion at the event.

This story has been updated from an earlier version. 

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