Daily we hear of new attacks by the Trump Administration on the rights of immigrants — from threatening DACA and TPS holders, to threatening to deport those with serious medical issues, to separating children from their parents in brutal ways. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and protect our local immigrant communities.
Earlier this year, The Welcome Project, an organization that supports immigrants in the Somerville and Medford area, approached me with the idea of filing a bill that would allow all qualified drivers, regardless of their immigration status, to apply for a standard driver’s license. They saw firsthand how the inability to get driver’s licenses impacted the ability to live in our Commonwealth safely. Passing this bill would make an immediate, positive impact on immigrant families in our state.
That is why I filed An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility, along with my colleagues Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) and Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn). This bill would allow all qualified drivers, regardless of their immigration status, to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license.
There are currently two license options for Massachusetts’s drivers: the standard license and REAL ID. The standard license can only be used for driving, not for federal identification purposes, such as boarding an airplane. Under our bill, all people would be able to apply for a standard Massachusetts license. Applicants would have to pass standard vision and road tests, submit comprehensive documentation, and purchase auto insurance. Separating federal immigration policy from Massachusetts driver’s license eligibility makes common sense–our federal immigration system is broken, and it’s clear that Washington won’t be repairing it anytime soon.
Just last week, over 400 people packed the State House for a hearing on this bill that lasted over 6 hours. Testimony was overwhelmingly in support, and full of personal stories about the need for driver’s licenses. We heard from individuals who spoke of the need to get to work and take their kids to school, and the fear they face every day from the lack of a license. Businesses, law enforcement, faith leaders and municipal officials spoke to the moral importance and common sense logic of this bill.
Driving is key to economic mobility. Though many people in our region take public transportation, the reality remains that many jobs are not accessible to the routes or hours of the T, and are not reliable if your child has a medical emergency. And in more rural parts of our state, public transportation isn’t an option at all. For people to get to work, drive their kids to school or to the doctor, and participate in their communities, a driver’s license is often a necessity that we have denied qualified people solely because of their immigration status, making thousands live in fear of detention or deportation every time they get in a car to drive.
Allowing driver’s licenses also improves safety. Many undocumented immigrants without a license already drive out of necessity. This bill would ensure that everyone on the road would be licensed, trained and insured. A recent study in Connecticut showed that when a similar measure passed, hit and run rates declined significantly, as people were more likely to remain at the scene of an accident, rather than flee due to fears of detainment or deportation.
I am proud to represent Medford and Somerville because they are diverse and welcoming communities. We value people of different races, religions, and socioeconomic statuses. I see every day how much this community benefits from hard-working immigrants, and supporting the ability to get a driver’s license is an important way that we can help protect the immigrant families that make our communities great places to live.
In this moment in history, states must look for ways to step up and do the right thing for those who have been targeted by The Trump Administration’s cruel anti-immigrant policies. The time is now to ensure people have mobility to support their communities and families. The time is now to pass the Work & Family Mobility Act.