But the first round of activity will make life more difficult for those Irish living in the shadows.
The Real ID Act is set to be signed into law by President Bush before the week is out.
Its passage will pose serious difficulties for the undocumented who want to obtain a driver’s license, or renew a driving permit.
Meanwhile, the long anticipated immigration reform bill crafted by Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain is due to be unveiled in the nation’s capital today.
The Real ID Act was passed in joint House/Senate conference last week.
And as it has already been approved by the House, it remains for the Senate to give it a final approving nod.
The Senate was scheduled to vote on it as the Echo went to press Tuesday. Approval is expected.
Supporters of the REAL ID Act have presented it in terms of being an national security measure aimed at foiling terrorists.
“Issuing drivers’ licenses to anyone not knowing whether they’re here legally, or who they really are, is an open invitation for terrorists and criminals to hide in plain site,” said U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner(R-WI), the author of the legislation.
The act is rooted in the report of the 9/11 Commission which recommended sterner tests for the issuing of licenses.
Under the provisions of the act, states will now require applicants to provide four types of identification: a photo, a passport or birth certificate, a Social Security card and a document proving residency. The requirements would apply to renewals as well as first time license requests.
States that do not comply with the new requirements in the next three years will find their drivers’ licenses are no longer accepted by federal authorities in places such as airports and federal courthouses.
In order to be in compliance, states will no longer allow driver’s license renewal by mail and every renewing applicant will have to show up at motor vehicle administration offices with the required identification.
The arrival of the Real ID act front and center coincided with a visit to Washington of two Irish parliamentary delegations, one from Fine Gael, the other from Fianna F_il.
Both were in the nation’s capital to lobby on behalf of the undocumented Irish and to attend the annual general meeting of the Irish Apostolate, the Irish Catholic Church’s immigrant advice organization in the U.S.
Junior Minister Tony Killeen said at the Irish Apostalate conference held in Washington last weekend, ?the Real ID Bill will put increased pressure on the undocumented.?
But, there is not much the Irish government can do except monitor the situation and keep people informed.
Fine Gael Spokesperson on Emigrant Affairs, Paul Connaughton TD, said the visits by the Irish politicians were designed to impress on Washington legislators the concern for the undocumented felt back in Ireland.
Connaughton said that legislators that his delegation had met seemed surprised that there were still many undocumented Irish in the U.S., as many as 50,000 by his estimate.
“The case we were making was that the vast majority are law abiding, working people and that workers here are no drag down on the economy at all,” Connaughton said.
That case will be made by supporters of the Kennedy/McCain legislation in congress but the debate over the reform bill is expected to be extensive and acrimonious.
The Irish politicians, however, left Washington convinced that the undocumented Irish will come out ahead once the new rules are finalized.
“As long as they are transparent and come out into the open, show that they’re working, and willing to comply then it will work,” said Deputy Connaughton.
But a less sanguine view was being presented this week by James Keeley,
communications director of the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies.
Keeley said those undocumented looking for reassurance from the proposed Kennedy/McCain legislation were likely to be disappointed.
“My understanding is that it’s a fairly brazen amnesty for illegal aliens, and I don’t see the Republican majority in Congress accepting the provisions,” Keeley said.
“Last week, the Senate, which is more liberal on these matters than the House, had a pretty robust debate on a guest worker bill. Support fell far short for any liberalization on immigration reform,” he said.
Keeley said he envisaged a more restrictive and enforcement minded package of reforms.
He expects an emphasis on more border patrols, and more inspectors at the airports reducing the chances for the undocumented to try and slip home for a visit.