Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hispanic vote strength growing

Story on CNN today shows that Hispanic vote is fastest growing ethnic minority in the country. Wonder how the Republicans can keep attracting their vote while also supporting crackdowns that are hitting immigrant communities? Something's going to have to give. They can't campaign for the Hispanic vote (which helped propel George W into office) AND be anti-immigrant at the same time. Hopefully we'll see start to see more sense being spoken on immigration.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Driving while illegal; Editorial from New York Daily News

Gov. Spitzer made the right call in letting the Department of Motor Vehicles issue driver's licenses without demanding that applicants produce valid Social Security cards. It's a bummer, but he was forced into it by Washington's failure to reform the immigration system.

New York is home to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. A growing number of them have been driving without licenses - and thus without insurance - since former Gov. George Pataki ordered that everyone who signed up for a license had to produce proof of Social Security or valid immigration status.

No one knows how many uninsured drivers there are in New York, but 152,000 people have lost, or are about to lose, their licenses because of Pataki's 2002 edict. They didn't go away. They didn't stop driving. They'll just tool around without insurance. That's unacceptable and downright dangerous. It also forces up everyone else's insurance premiums.

New York's licensing regulations are, appropriately, among the toughest in the nation. Applicants must present a variety of forms of documentation, such as a passport or a birth certificate, to prove they are who they say they are. In this day and age, strict security is an absolute necessity.

To maintain that, Spitzer has ordered applicants who don't have Social Security numbers to produce foreign identification, including, at a minimum, the passport of another country. He has also ordered the DMV to bring in the latest technology to verify the authenticity of such documents. Finally, he's equipping the DMV with devices that can cross-check photos to make sure no one gets more than once license.

Strictly and effectively applied, those measures should be enough to determine the true identities of applicants. They will also put names, addresses and faces into state records increasing the state's ability to keep track of who's here. To charge, as some have, that Spitzer is enabling terrorists is outrageous bunk.

In a better world, we wouldn't have to go through contortions to uphold security standards while preventing New Yorkers from being victimized by uninsured drivers and inflated insurance costs. But that's what we'll have to do until Congress makes it possible for illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Finally some sense on the radio!

Ann from Queens - and also a volunteer with the ILIR - got on the phone-in to the Brian Lehrer show and described how her life as a mother of two small children would improve under Governor Spitzer's new rules.

Ann provided some of the discussion's more illuminating points when she said;

I've been here 10 years, I pay my taxes, I have a tax ID

This is it; in a nutshell; our ghost citizens can pay their taxes, contribute to the economy (see the story from the NYT today) yet people such as John J. Flanagan (R-2nd , Suffolk County) won't be happy until they've chased all the immigrants out of the US.

Flanagan was debating the issue on the Lehrer show with Jose M. Serrano (D-28th, The Bronx and East Harlem) with Serrano defending the governor and Flanagan attacking the policy for "rewarding" illegal immigration.

Ain't it funny how some people with Irish names seem to have conveniently forgotten that their ancestors must have crossed the Atlantic at some point? Flanagan and his ilk live in a dream world where immigrants wait patiently for some mythical visa. Memo to Flanagan. THEY"RE AIN'T NO VISA PROGRAMS OUT THERE.

Please, someone help us get out of this mess!

And fair play to ya Ann, for telling it like it is!!

Call In To WNYC In New York 212-433-WNYC

Licensed to Drive

The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC (93.9 fm and 820AM) will feature a segment on the drivers licenses in New York.

Please call in to the show (bet 10am and 11am) at 212-433-WNYC (212-433-9692).

Let the New York public know how popular Governor Eliot Spitzer's move is with the Irish in New York.

We love the Gov!

Send your comments directly to the show.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Irish delight at New York U-turn

From The Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2007

UNDOCUMENTED Irish immigrants across the state of New York were thrilled last week as State Governor Eliot Spitzer announced a U-turn on driving licences

Under current state laws, undocumented Irish immigrants were ineligible for driving licences if they could not provide valid social security numbers.

Governor Spitzer said that the law was only making the roads more dangerous for residents in New York, and he ordered a sweeping overhaul.

Under the new initiative, undocumented Irish immigrants with old or expired driving licences will be able to apply for replacement licences in December. These licences will be valid for eight years.

New drivers will be able to apply for five-year licences beginning in April 2008. All applicants will need valid passports instead of work permit documents or social security documents to prove their identity.

Deirdre Magowan from Dublin said she was delighted. "I have been unable to drive my son to school for the past two years because I had lost my licence and I wasn't able to renew it."

"I've always been afraid of having an accident so I couldn't bring him or his friends in the car."

Deirdre, like thousands of other Irish across the US, are in dire difficulties because of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Her son, Oisin, has no idea that his parents are "illegal". He visited Ireland last year for his first trip ever, accompanied by his grandfather Michael. The seven-year-old said the trip was great but that he missed his parents.

Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, urged volunteers to contact Governor Spitzer to congratulate him on his brave stance.

"Governer Spitzer's initiative is a huge step forward for our community as it signals that common sense can prevail in the immigration issue," she said.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

DMV posts new policy online

The New York DMV has posted details of the new policy online. You can read it by clicking here Hopefully, other states will see the sense in knowing who's on the roads and making sure they're insured. Please keep those faxes/emails and letters going into Governor Spitzer's office. And if you're living in other states, maybe you should put a quick call into YOUR Governor's office asking them to do the sensible thing.

In other news; some people have sent in offensive comments to the blog. It is this blog author's policy NOT to publish offensive comments from people who are too cowardly to leave their name or email. Hope that answers your question.

Friday, September 21, 2007


(The phones at Gov Eliot Spitzer's office have been taken offline)
FAX 518 474 1513
EMAIL through the website
WRITE the Governor at Eliot Spitzer, State Capitol, Albany, NY, 12224
Gov Spitzer's initiative is a huge step forward for our community as it signals that common sense CAN prevail in the immigration issue.
Please make sure that you contact the Governor's office.
Read full press release here

Breaking News; Spitzer Announces Driving Licences

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer today announced a sweeping new initiative which will see undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for driving licences.

The initiative - which was announced at a press conference at his New York offices earlier today - will take place in two phases.

Phase one - which will take place in December 2007 - will allow those with old, or expired, driving licences to renew them for eight years.

Phase two - which will start in April 2008 - will allow completely new applications from people who have never driven before. These licenses will be valid for five years.

All applicants will be required to present a passport at the DMV to prove their identity.

More to follow

Spitzer Policy Will Let Illegal Immigrants Get Driver's Licenses

(From The Sun, New York)

Jacob Gershman, Sept 21, 2007

Illegal immigrants in New York will be allowed to obtain New York State driver's licenses under a new policy that the Spitzer administration is expected to announce shortly, a source said.

Starting in 2008, the Department of Motor Vehicles will accept foreign passports and birth certificates from immigrants as proofs of identification for new license applications. Immigrants will no longer need to provide legal status paperwork or a Social Security card, the source said.

The changes could not be immediately confirmed by the Spitzer administration.

County clerks around the state came to Albany yesterday to meet with officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles to discuss the new policy, according to the source, who said the commissioner, David Swarts, briefed the Bloomberg administration.

During last year's gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Spitzer said he would permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, arguing that banning them from driving worsened the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers without adding to security.

"The facts show that restricting immigrants's access to driver's licenses does nothing to improve security," a spokeswoman for Mr. Spitzer, Christine Anderson, told the Associated Press in October. "All it does is drive immigrants into the shadows, creating a class of people with no public records."

Opponents of the proposed changes said restrictions on giving licenses to illegal immigrants help to prevent identity theft and thwart terrorist attacks. They note that the September 11, 2001 plane hijackers had at least 35 licenses, which helped them to rent cars and open bank accounts.

Since the September 11 attacks, state governments have expanded driver's license identification requirements and many have begun preparing for the implementation of the Real ID Act of 2005, which requires states to adopt national standards for driver's licenses by the end of 2009.

New York is one of more than 30 states to verify the Social Security numbers of driver's license applicants.

In 2002, Mr. Pataki issued an executive order that required driver's license applicants to submit Social Security numbers to prove they were legal residents or to provide proof that they were not eligible for a Social Security number.

In 2004, to comply with an executive order issued by Mr. Pataki, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles began sending out warning letters to New Yorkers with licenses whose Social Security numbers did not match federal data.

About 58% of the 600,000 individuals who received the letter verified their Social Security numbers. Those individuals who did not verify their numbers will be able to get a legal license by December, the source said.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paul and Jenny's Story

Anyone who has attended an ILIR function in Boston or Washington over the past two years will probably remember meeting Paul and Jenny Ladd.
The young Irish couple lived in Boston for the past 12 years and built up a successful life and busines there.
Their life in the US came to an abrupt end last summer when they were pulled over on a routine trafic stop in New Hampshire.
They have tried every means possible to stay in the US, but, as all of us know, years of tax-paying, law-abiding, community-spirited behaviour counts for nothing if you don't have a visa.
Their story was published in the Irish Times on Tuesday. Please click here to read it.

Sheila Gleeson, the Executive Director of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers said:

The couple were tireless advocates for immigration reform for as long as I have know them (more then 5 years). When I saw this story last night I was not surprised to see that, in spite of the fact that they will not benefit themselves, they are continuing to fight for immigration reform to the end.

US no longer offers a haven as reluctant Irish prepare to quit Boston

The Irish Times,
Wed, Sep 19, 2007

Letter from Boston:They had the wake in Porterbellys, a pub in the Brighton section of Boston where Gaelic games are shown on one screen and Red Sox baseball games on another.

In the 19th century wakes like these used to be held in cottages and pubs in the west of Ireland, going away parties for those who were sailing to America and who, despite heartfelt protests to the contrary, were never coming back.

Now they hold them in America, in cities like Boston, in places like Porterbellys, for people like Paul and Jenny Ladd, who are going back to Ireland not because they want to but because they have to.

"How's Fr John?" Paul Ladd said in his singsong Cork accent.

Fr John McCarthy, a Limerick priest who works with Irish immigrants in Boston, smiled and gave Paul Ladd, a bear of a man, a hug.

"It's not right," Fr McCarthy said later, as the Ladds greeted the friends they had made during the 12 years they lived in Boston. "I look at people like Paul and Jenny and think, it's America's loss. So it is."

Paul bought Jenny three different Aer Lingus tickets before she agreed to join him in America, and that was only after she lost her delivery job in their native Mallow.

"I refused to go on the dole," Jenny said.

They landed in Boston with $250 in cash between them, and hit the pubs in Brighton, asking other immigrants where they could find work.

Within a few hours, Paul had a job, roofing. Within a few days, Jenny was cleaning houses. Within a few years, Paul had started his own roofing business.

They scrimped and saved and bought a house in Norwood, a Boston suburb where many residents are of Irish ancestry.

The Ladds tried to legalise their residency status. They couldn't. The system was broken, so like the tens of thousands of Irish who came here after the last of the Morrison visas were handed out in the early 1990s, the Ladds kept their heads down and stayed on.

Call them naive, but they thought that if you worked hard, paid taxes and kept your nose clean, eventually you would be embraced as an American.

There were two centuries of experience to suggest this approach worked, especially for the Irish, especially in Boston.

The same US government that wouldn't give the Ladds a way to get legal gladly handed them tax identification numbers and took their taxes. But, due to restrictions put in place after the 9/11 attacks, Paul Ladd couldn't renew his driver's licence last year and when his truck was stopped by police on a routine check, he and Jenny entered a system that no longer winks at people with freckles and brogues.

Shortly after arriving in Boston, Jenny got a second job as nanny for a family in Brookline, and the job came with a flat. She called her mum back in Cork to say she was living just a few blocks from where John F Kennedy was born.

A couple of months ago, Paul and Jenny Ladd stood in a courtroom in a building named for John F Kennedy and were ordered to leave the country. The Ladds never played the Irish card, even in a city where that long held currency. "We're no better than anyone else," Paul said.

They volunteered with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, seeking a comprehensive law for all immigrants. When Senator Ted Kennedy and others unveiled a bipartisan bill in June, and President George Bush vowed to sign it, the Ladds thought they would be spared deportation. But the immigration bill crashed and burned in the Senate just weeks later.

A weak president and a cynical Congress were no match for the anti-immigrant sentiment that hovers like a fog over parts of America. Last week Michael Carr, an immigrant who has a painting business and makes a few bob on the side singing in Boston's myriad Irish pubs, dedicated the first song of his first set at Porterbellys to Paul Ladd. It was the old Christy Moore song, Ordinary Man. Ladd mouthed the words as Carr sang: "I'm an ordinary man, nothing special, nothing grand. I've had to work for everything I own."

Jenny Ladd chatted with Matt Arnold, the American boy for whom she was a nanny. Matt's all grown up now, and at 22 just graduated from university.

Jenny was wearing a loud green T-shirt, and the words on the front - Legalize the Irish - seemed especially plaintive and poignant.

Matt's mother, Victoria, stood next to them and shook her head. "I think it's wrong that Paul and Jenny are getting deported," she said. "They are the kind of people who make this country better. They're the immigrant story."

In Boston, they are the immigrant story in reverse. Boston's Irish-born community, which has been replenishing itself for a century and a half, is drying up. Since 9/11, many have gone home, and fewer are coming over.

Some held on the last couple of years, hoping for immigration reform. Now, as that seems a long way off, even if the Democrats win the White House back, the December flights to Ireland are filling up quickly. A lot of the Irish want to be home for Christmas.

Paul Ladd doesn't know what he'll do back in Cork.

"I'll find whatever work I can," he said.

Jenny has lined up a job to clean houses.

"That's what I did when I first came to America," she said. "I'm starting over where I began."

Jenny looked up at one of the ceiling beams. Hanging there was one of those authentic black and white road signs from back home. It said Bantry was three miles away. "It feels like a million miles," Jenny said.

Kevin Cullen

Saturday, September 08, 2007

ILIR's New Course

Editorial from ILIR Chairman Niall O'Dowd

September has arrived and Congress will soon be back in session after the summer break.

For the Irish undocumented the prospects of a major immigration bill being passed in the House or Senate in the new session are negligible.

That does not mean there will be no action on immigration issues however.

Issues such as the Dream Act which would give legal status to children who came here with their illegal parents and know no other society are being pushed strongly by advocates such as Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois.

Senator Diane Feinstein of California has also signaled that she will be trying to pass agricultural workers legislation that would allow legalization of those who pick and harvest the California crops. Other bills may also be in the offing.

They may include a slew of border-security first provisions, put forward by opportunistic Republicans,intent on making it as hard as possible for the issue to lose some of its undoubted heat and hostility which has characterized the debate.

Thankfully there are enough legislators of principle who will oppose any such draconian measures without a measure of relief for the undocumented as well. Perhaps the-border first legislators believe that they have sufficient numbers, especially with a difficult election year coming up, to pass some bill or other but it hardly seems likely.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has obviously taken a step back since the defeat of the comprehensive bill in early summer. The lobby however, has not been idle. There has been continuous discussion with senior figures in Congress, in the Irish government and elsewhere about what will be the best way forward.

The lobby has also just hired former Congressman Bruce Morrison, author of the Morrison visas bill and a long term expert on all aspects of immigration law, as their lobbyist in Washington.

While the days of the mass rallies and 3,000 people flooding Washington are over, the goodwill and contacts created by those lobby days are still there to be harvested.

Of course if you are illegal in a apartment in the Bronx, Dorchester, Sunset or Philadelphia,the news has been discouraging since the defeat of the comprehensive bill. However, it is important to note that ILIR has continued to work with other immigraition groups and has also taken stock of what is the best way for their community to proceed.

Obviously, the Irish government now becomes a major player. Given their high visibility and major access in Washington it could not be otherwise. The government of Bertie Ahern has taken a consistently strong stand on the issue of legalizing the Irish and the time has now come for all who are interested in achieving that goal to come together and work on an agreed formula.

There are certainly enough examples of countries who received fair treatement when they sought it from the American authorities. Chile, Australia and Nicaragua to name but three have worked well to further their own interests in the recent past. Ireland must look to such examples.

There is also the issue of access to Ireland for American workers, a reality that became apparent when over 6,000 Americans attended the Irish Voice/FAS jobs fair in Manhattan last year. The reality is that Americans want - and should have - access to work in Ireland in the same way that Irish want to have access to come and work here.

All in all the situation has been bleak for some months now, but there is a new possibility abroad that efforts can be made to solve the issue of the Irish undocumented. It will not be for want of trying from ILIR or we're sure the Irish government. Let's keep hope alive.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Immigrants’ Labors Lost

The New York Times

September 3, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

San Francisco

IMAGINE we wanted to create a huge Latino underclass in this country. We would induce more than 500,000 illegal immigrants to enter annually. We would see Latinos account for half of America’s population growth. We would turn a hardened eye toward all 44 million Latinos, because 12 million jumped our borders to meet our labor demand.

We would financially motivate but morally deplore illegal immigrants’ determination to break our laws and risk their lives to work for us. We would let nativist, xenophobic amnesiacs pillory the roughly 25 percent of Latinos who were here illegally, at the expense of the 75 percent who were legal. CNN and Fox News would reduce Latinos to fodder for fear-mongering, and the documentariat would make them objects of pity, when they wanted and warranted neither.

We would know that if we paid them, they would come, but we would offer no legitimate employment. We would adopt a let’s-pretend labor policy in our fields, yards, factories and restaurants, and for child care, construction and cleaning, with a wage fakery worthy of the Soviet Union. There, the joke was “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.” Here they would work, hard — and we would pay them, sort of, but pretend not to, denying ourselves the future tax revenue needed to pay for services we faulted them for needing.

We would ensure that the education system failed them, lamenting a dropout rate more than twice that of blacks and four times that of whites. Keeping incomes impossibly low, we would sanction Mexican-American welfare receipts twice those of natives. We would let the states launch loads of legislative half-fixes. We would have the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Homeland Security Department start an “even tougher” and more futile paper chase. We would see desperate workers fake new Social Security numbers or go underground for the next boss seeking this shabby labor discount.

We do all of this — and let it cost us more as a country — because it is a little cheaper for us as individuals and employers. And whether we knew it or not, we are deliberately fencing in our own economy.

It is in our self-interest to support labor mobility, development and advancement. Growth in productivity, fundamentally, is how we raise everyone’s standard of living. It starts with the first rung.

This month, Congress can avert a replay of the 1986 amnesty debacle by reserving permanent residency and citizenship for those who get in line and play by existing rules. Let nobody’s status be “adjusted” or “granted.” Instead, have employers sponsor anyone on their shadow payrolls to apply for a tamper-proof holographic guest worker card. Deport, adequately south of the border, anyone not sponsored. That won’t mean all 12 million. In 1954, when illegal Latino immigration was twice what it is now, a manageable number of deportations motivated the majority to repatriate.

To enforce sanctions against employers, grant the states (who bear the social costs) federal transfer payments for every undocumented worker they find, which will keep Congress and future administrations honest about paying for enforcement. If agriculture needs a lower minimum wage, negotiate and legislate it. To address the supply side, in the next trade agreement insist that Mexico adequately ensure its workers’ right to organize — to support wages and worker retention there, and a fairer fight for American exports.

The strength of an abstraction like “the economy” comes from the hands and minds of motivated and prepared people. Whether or not the left is committed to social equity — or the right, to equality of opportunity — we have at least 12 million pragmatic reasons to turn a potentially permanent underclass into a productive asset. Rather than fencing aspiring contributors out, comprehensive reform means Congress getting serious about entry-level job training and midcareer education programs for all workers. They deliver better economic returns than border patrols do.

The guy with the leaf-blower not only can learn English, he — like the unemployed steelworker — should have a chance to learn auto repair or programming. He’ll start with the jobs “ordinary Americans” won’t do. But we impair our economic future if we leave him there, imagining that’s all he or his children will ever do.

Mark Lange was a presidential speechwriter from 1989 to 1991.