By Bob Katzen

The House 120-36, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow people who are unable to prove lawful presence in the United States to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license by providing two documents. The first document is a valid unexpired foreign passport or valid unexpired consular ID.

The second is a valid non-Massachusetts U.S. driver’s license, birth certificate, valid foreign national ID card, valid foreign driver’s license or a marriage certificate or divorce decree. The measure also provides that when processing an application for a Massachusetts license, the registry is prohibited from inquiring about or creating a record of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status.

“In line with the 16 other states that have passed laws offering standard licenses to those providing secure identification documents, this carefully crafted public safety legislation will mean that all drivers using our roads are identifiable, competent and insured,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), House Chair of the Committee on Transportation.

“I oppose this legislation as it creates an incentive and encourages more illegal immigration to Massachusetts by allowing those who are undocumented and here illegally to get a driver’s license,” said Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn). “The federal government must address the matter of those who are here illegally and tackle the flow of illegal immigration into the country before we start giving out government issued IDs to undocumented individuals here illegally in Massachusetts. It sends a wrong message to those who are going through the intended process of legally immigrating to the country.”

“The [bill] will make Massachusetts roads safer and more accessible for all, ensuring all drivers have the same safety training, standardized identification and insurance,” said Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), sponsor of the original version of the measure.

“I could not support the bill because I have serious concerns about the message it sends, how it will be enforced and whether it will truly improve road safety as its proponents have claimed,” said GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “Making driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants is unfair to those individuals who have followed the law to secure lawful presence status or citizenship. I’m also concerned that many individuals who will now be eligible for a license will instead continue to drive without a license and without insurance, either because they distrust the government and won’t come forward to apply or because they don’t want to pay the added costs of carrying insurance.”

“I filed this bill to enable all residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for a driver’s license so they can get to work, take their children to school and doctor appointments and buy groceries,” said Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville), another sponsor of the original bill.

“The idea that individuals can cut in line and illegally enter the United States of America, then be rewarded with the privilege of obtaining a Massachusetts driver’s license, shows yet again just how far left the state Legislature has become,” said Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons. “This new law will only serve to encourage more illegal immigration and make the problem much worse.”

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