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Bill proposed to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants

The “Work and Family Mobility Act,” introduced on Beacon Hill last week, would allow undocumented immigrants residing in the Commonwealth to get a standard driver’s license. COURTESY OF 32BJ SEIU

Several Massachusetts lawmakers and advocacy groups introduced a bill in the state Legislature last week that, if passed, would allow undocumented immigrants living in the Commonwealth to obtain a driver’s license.

The bill, called the “Work and Family Mobility Act,” would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a standard driver’s license. This is different from a “REAL ID” class of license in Massachusetts, which can be used as a federal form of identification to, for example, board planes or enter federal buildings.

The bill is sponsored by State Senator Brendan Crighton and State Representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Christine Barber.

Crighton said the bill is important regarding improving the quality of life for undocumented immigrants living in the state.

These are our neighbors, our students, our workforce, our family and friends,” Crighton said. “I think there’s no rational argument for prohibiting them from having a license. Citizenship has no impact on the ability to drive whatsoever.”

In remarks given at the Massachusetts State House, Roxana Rivera, vice president of SEIU 32BJ, said the union was pleased to be one of the major proponents of the bill because it would positively benefit many union members and their families.

“Our organization is proud to be out front in the push for this bill alongside our community partners,” Rivera said, “because this is an essential issue for our membership of 19,000 service workers in Massachusetts, who work as janitors and security officers throughout the state.”

Marion Davis, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said that while MIRA is not the primary advocate for this bill, the coalition had worked on similar legislation in the past and supports its passing.

“We force everyday people to decide, ‘Do I not meet my family’s need, or do I take the risk of driving illegally,’” Davis said. “We don’t think we should have to force that risk. We shouldn’t have to force that decision on people.”

Crighton said due to the inaction of the U.S. Congress and President Donald Trump, the responsibility of protecting undocumented and temporary protected status immigrants instead falls upon the 50 states and their legislatures.

“Because the federal government has refused to act on immigration, [undocumented immigrants] have no pathway to citizenship,” Crighton said. “… We’re telling them that they can’t drive. It hurts their prospects for jobs, it hurts their ability to safely get to where they need to go. There’s really a million reasons why this is the right thing to do.”

As for Massachusetts’s non-immigrant population, Davis said examples from 12 other states with similar policies showed that all of the state’s residents would benefit from the increased revenue and higher overall quality of drivers that would come as a result of this bill.

“It would be much better to know that every single person who’s behind the wheel in Massachusetts knows the rules of the road, has had their eyes checked,” Davis said. “That way, we’re all better off when every driver in the road is trained, insured, licensed.”

However, both Crighton and Davis said they anticipate opposition from Gov. Charlie Baker, who told the Boston Herald Thursday he would “certainly veto” a bill to grant licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Opponents of the bill claim that eliminating the need for proof of legal presence would make the state susceptible to fraud and that immigrants should wait to obtain drivers licenses until they are granted legal presence, according to the Herald.\

Crighton said she thought the governor’s immediate opposition to the bill lacks rationale.

“I’d like for him to let the bill go through the process, learn more about the facts and the merits of it,” she said.

Eden Park, 26, of Watertown, said she thought the bill would provide peace of mind to undocumented immigrants in the Commonwealth.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Park said. “Might as well have everyone insured and have everyone be safe instead of being worried all the time that you’re going to get caught by the police.”

Dillon Evren, 21, of Brookline, said he disagrees with the assertion that undocumented immigrants should wait to apply for a driver’s license because the process to obtain legal presence in the country is too long and hard.

“It’s already very hard for immigrants to get green cards and citizenship,” Evren said. “And for a drivers license it should matter because that’s an important skill to have and an important document to have. They shouldn’t be limited that way.”

Lukas Morgan, 20, of Roxbury, said he thinks that while the bill makes sense, it has drawbacks.

“People are going to complain about undocumented immigrants getting privileges that they shouldn’t have,” Morgan said. “The best bet would be to document and get in here legally, but, obviously, a wall isn’t the right way to do it.”

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  1. Bill Scalise 72 citizen and long time resident of Lynn

    I think its a terrible idea to allow illegal immigrants drivers licenses. They are here illegally and we have little if any information on these people. Will they need to pass the same requirements legal residents have to pass such as traffic rules, understand any English, obtaining proper insurance, etc. When it comes down to it giving illegals drivers licenses just gives illegals another reason to come to the US and remain illegal. I believe and support legal immigration and strongly support improving our system which both the Democrats and Republicans should seriously address at this time.

    • They need an opportunity to lead a better life , all this pleope have a dream, get an family happily. they live in fear.

  2. Us dreams 24 – Illegal aliens could be violent criminals from other countries for all you know. There are gang members, drug runners, all sorts of people who “need an opportunity to lead a better life”. Just passing out a DL to anyone who comes here is a bad idea. It is a disincentive to following our rules for immigration which serve to protect us.