By Bob Katzen

The House and Senate held a ceremonial bill signing for legislation that would allow, starting July 1, 2023, undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver’s license. The governor had vetoed the bill and the House and Senate overrode the veto—making it impossible to hold a signing of the bill by the governor.

The legislation requires an applicant “without legal presence” in the United States to provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles (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.

“I cannot sign this legislation because it requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity,” Baker had said in his veto message. “The Registry does not have the expertise or ability to verify the validity of many types of documents from other countries. The bill also fails to include any measures to distinguish standard Massachusetts driver’s licenses issued to persons who demonstrate lawful presence from those who don’t.”

“[This] is a piece of legislation I have been proud to co-lead on since I first entered the Senate,” said Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). “As a proud Puerto Rican … and the state senator for a district that is rich in diversity, I know that this bill will benefit generations of families across the commonwealth. Our state is rich in culture and has a deep-rooted sense of community. The Senate further affirmed their commitment to protecting all families, regardless of status, by overriding the governor’s veto of this bill and enacting it into law.”

“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 Legislature has voted to override Gov. Baker’s veto on this measure, which supports families, improves public safety and is good for our economy.”

In the meantime, “Fair and Secure Massachusetts,” a group attempting to repeal the new law, is collecting signatures to put the issue on the November state ballot to let voters decide whether to repeal the law or let it go into effect in July 2023. To get the question on the ballot, supporters must collect 40,120 signatures by August 24.

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