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Center sparked by Golden Venture celebrates 25 years of seeking justice for immigrants

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Executive Director Andrew Baranoski, of Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, is shown with a paper sculpture made by Golden Vision detainees at York County Prison, at the center in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Chinese refugees, apprehended from the Golden Vision freighter in 1993, were detained at York County Prison and created more than 10,000 pieces of art comprised of intricately folded paper over the span of nearly four years spent in the prison. Dawn J. Sagert photo

In 1993, almost 300 Chinese immigrants were held at York County Prison after the ship they were on, the Golden Venture, ran aground off the coast of New York City. 

In response, York County community members stepped forward to help these individuals seek justice while some were held in the prison for as long as four years — and that sparked the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center in 1996. 

Now in its 25th year, the York-based nonprofit continues to work to achieve long-term safety and economic independence for immigrants, officials for the organization said. 

"The community came together and took an issue with the indefinite detention of these individuals," said Jasmine Greene, remembering the events of the Golden Venture shipwreck that launched the immigrant organization.

There are several layers of the work PIRC does, including offering legal services to detained immigrants in civil cases, providing resources to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and helping immigrants apply for naturalization.

One story highlighted by PIRC details the life of a 36-year-old domestic violence victim originally from Panama, now residing in Cumberland County. 

PIRC assisted the woman by helping her file a self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act in 2018. An individual could be eligible under this act to becoming a permanent resident if they are the victim of cruelty, according to the Department of Homeland Security's website.

The Cumberland County resident was approved in January and can start her naturalization process in three years to become a U.S. citizen, according to PIRC.

 Andrew Baranoski, the executive director of PIRC, said he's most proud that his organization provides all of its services at no charge.

Executive Director Andrew Baranoski, of Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, is shown near a quilt made by now-board member Marilyn Neuburger (not pictured) for the organization, at the center in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. The organization is celebrating 25 years of service this year. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"I think the founding of PIRC really shows what a community can do when it comes together and creates a service that really serves all members of the community," Baranoski said. 

In celebration of 25 years, several events planned throughout the year will further demonstrate the work of PIRC and emphasize the issues immigrants still face today. 

A virtual book club featuring four books with discussions planned throughout the year will kick off the celebration events. 

First up for discussion is "The Line Becomes a River" by Francisco Cantú, on March 17. Interested individuals can sign up via the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center's Facebook page.

A paper sculpture made by detainees during their time at York County Prison, after being taken into custody from the Golden Venture freighter in 1993, is shown at the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. The Chinese refugees apprehended from the Golden Venture created more than 10,000 pieces of art, comprised of intricately folded paper, over the span of nearly four years spent in the prison. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Additionally, a movie screening in December will showcase the 2006 film "Golden Venture," a documentary based on the real events that helped start the PIRC. 

"2021 is going to be a big year in planning in where we want the organization to go," Greene said, adding that the nonprofit aims to emphasize promoting safety and economic independence in the form of naturalization.

Though the future is hard to predict, Greene said she is hopeful that through the Biden administration there will be more support and funding for immigration services.

"At the end of the day we're fighting for human rights and helping immigrants access rights that may have been harder for them to access," Greene said. "There's already been a drastic change between a week ago and today."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.