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Kennedy-McCain bill may be nearing Senate vote

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

In the meantime, however, a battle is being waged by some legislators who want to attach restrictive immigration rules to other bills that deal primarily with military appropriations and even tsunami relief.
Negotiations were taking place at presstime in an effort to link the issuing of driver’s licenses to supplementary military spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One House bill that has now reached the Senate, H.R. 1268, proposes “emergency supplemental appropriations” for defense, the war on terror and tsunami relief, but additionally calls for the establishment and rapid implementation of “regulations for State driver’s license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence, and for other purposes.”
The bill was authored by Rep. Jerry Lewis, a Republican from California.
A similar linking of driver’s licenses and national security is contained in the better known Real ID Act, recently passed by the House and now before the Senate.
Advocates for the undocumented argue that the Real ID Act and other measures like it will short-circuit the overall immigration reform debate by forcing huge numbers of undocumented, Irish included, to quit the U.S. before broader reform legislation emerges from Congress.
That broader reform is expected to take shape first and foremost in the as yet unnamed Kennedy-McCain bill.
Sources indicate that the bill is all but complete in terms of its language and should reach the Senate floor by the end of April.
Meanwhile, the driver’s license issue went before the courts in New York last week.
A strict new rule for renewing driver’s licenses in the state is prompting undocumented immigrants to quit the United States for good, immigrant advocates claim.
The new rule requires production of a valid Social Security number, something the undocumented are unable to provide.
It prompted a lawsuit filed in the State Supreme Court by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. One of the plaintiffs in the suit is an undocumented Irish father of an American-born child.
The father, whose identity is being kept anonymous with the court’s consent, needs a license to drive his child, who suffers from seizures, for emergency medical treatment.
Other plaintiffs in the suit are legal immigrants who have also had problems obtaining licenses.
As a result of the PRLDEF suit, State Supreme Court judge Karen Smith recently issued a temporary order preventing the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles from refusing to issue licenses if an immigrant cannot produce a valid social security number.
This order was quickly stayed after an appeal by the state and the DMV was allowed continue its policy of requiring valid Social Security numbers from license applicants.
The court heard arguments in a hearing in Manhattan last week during which PRLDEF asked that the new DMV requirements be suspended. Judge Smith did not, however, deliver an immediate ruling.
A prime argument against the new rule is that it was never authorized by state legislators. But attorneys for New York State claim that the DMV has been acting within its bounds.

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