A Galway TD has said that Irish drivers license laws are a bigger threat to undocumented Irish than any measures proposed by Donald Trump.
Deputy Noel Grealish said that the requirement that anyone renewing their Irish driving license must appear in person at a National Driver License Service (NDLS) office in Ireland is putting undocumented Irish living in the United States in jeopardy.
He said the undocumented cannot risk coming to Ireland for fear of being detected as an illegal on return to the U.S., the Galway Advertiser reports.
“I was in Boston last week for a family wedding and I was approached by seven Irish people who told me that their Irish driving licenses had gone out of date and they were really worried about the consequences.“
He said in sanctuary cities, like Boston or New York, if you are stopped by a police officer, you are asked for only one document, your driving license.
“You are not asked if you are undocumented or if you are living in the country legally. And they don’t share your information with immigration authorities. So the license question is a major issue now because if you haven’t a driver’s license when you are stopped by the police, you are going to be arrested.
“Then that opens up a whole new chain of events, because when you are brought into a police station, they are going to ask if you are legal in the United States, if you have documents allowing you to be there. Then you’re in trouble and facing deportation,” said the Galway West Independent TD.
Grealish said he had brought up the problem with then Transport Minister, Paschal Donohoe, when the rules governing license renewals, including the requirement for applicants to show themselves in person, changed with the introduction of the card licenses some years ago.
He is now urging the Irish government to ease the regulations for Irish people abroad and let them renew licenses by mail or online.
“I really don’t understand why this requirement is there in the first place — the most important document anybody can have is their passport, which you can renew by post with the Passport Office in Dublin, and if you are living in the US, you can post your application for renewal to the Irish consulate office in New York, Boston, Chicago or wherever. So why can’t people do this when they want to renew their driving license?”
The deputy said that he as scheduled a meeting with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, to work towards a resolution to the problem, and he had also tabled a Dáil question on the matter.
“This is a matter that is causing difficulty for Irish people in other countries too, but it’s a particular problem in the US, where so many Irish people are undocumented and it’s causing a lot of trauma for them.
“I’ve had numerous calls on this from worried families and from the people concerned, as I’m sure every TD in the Dáil has. We simply must find a solution and fast,” he added.