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.