By Bob Katzen
The Senate 32-8, approved a bill allowing undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver’s license. The House has approved a different version of the bill and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration. The bills are similar and both branches approved their version by veto-proof margins. Once the two branches agree on a final version, the measure goes to Gov. Charlie Baker.
The legislation requires an applicant “without legal presence” in the United State to provide the RMV with a foreign passport and at least one of five other documents: a driver’s license from another state, a foreign driver’s license, a birth certificate, a foreign national identification card or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state.
“The [bill] makes our roads safer and, just as importantly, makes the lives of more than 185,000 Massachusetts immigrants without status easier by allowing them to earn a standard driver’s license,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn). “In the absence of a robust regional public transportation system, it is impossible for many Massachusetts residents to get through their day without the use of a car. No one should fear detention or deportation over essential everyday tasks such as getting to work, school, doctor’s appointments and grocery stores. It is time for Massachusetts to join the 16 other states who have passed this common-sense legislation.”
“It was important to me to listen to my local police chiefs many [of whom] indicated to me that they had concerns,” said Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), one of only five of the Senate’s 37 Democrats to vote against the bill. “As well-meaning as the legislation is, I do believe there will be unintended negative consequences. For one, the legislation will task the RMV with verifying documentation. You do not have to look very far to see problems the RMV continues to have, including the Brockton RMV improperly awarding 2,100 drivers licenses without a road test.”
“We are a nation of immigrants, and our commonwealth continues to be profoundly and positively shaped by immigrants from all over the world,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “They deserve to be able to safely get to work and school, care for their families and participate in the lives of their communities. I am thrilled that the Senate has moved forward with this proposal which will support families, improve public safety and be good for our economy.”
“State-issued drivers licenses are a primary form of identification in our society and they carry real-world consequences and responsibilities” said GOP Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr who led the opposition to the measure. “We proposed safeguards to ensure that a privilege to drive does not, under any circumstance, become misused for any purposes including access to voting in elections or anything else that could put the public at risk. The 9/11 Commission said that all layers of government should secure state-issued identification documents describing it as a national security and law enforcement imperative to combat identity fraud and illegal immigration.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it).
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes