Earlier this year, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses. The legislation, called the “Work and Family Mobility Law”, was welcomed in the House and passed by 120 votes to 36, which Pablo Ruiz, political director of the 32BJ union, says gives advocates hope. for the future of the bill.
“Never before have we felt so much hope for what lies ahead,” he said. “Perhaps never before has there been such urgency for this bill within our affected communities.”
The bill still needs to pass the state Senate before it reaches Gov. Charlie Baker’s office, but if approved, it would allow people who don’t have proof they are legally in the country to obtain a license. The legislation only affects standard Massachusetts licenses, not actual IDs, which would keep the state in compliance with national rules.
The Driving Families Forward coalition, which is committed to passing the law, hosted an online event on Tuesday attended by several local mayors and municipal leaders.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu spoke first and expressed support for the legislation.
“I’m here in my official capacity as mayor of Boston to give voice to the many, many residents who urgently need the transportation, safety and economic mobility mechanisms that this next step represents,” she said. declared. “I’m also here with my own identity, coming from an immigrant family where I know what it’s like to see the systems that are there, built with programs, services and funding, feel so far away. because of the many obstacles that stand in the way.”
Wu called Boston a city of immigrants, with 29% of the population having an immigrant background. Wu said this legislation could help alleviate problems with access to certain resources.
“Supporting our immigrant communities is supporting our city,” she said. “All the work we do around housing affordability, quality and access to education, clean air and jobs will only matter if people can actually access all the opportunities that we set up and work so hard to create.”
If passed, Massachusetts will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia that already have similar laws, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Vermont.
According to the bill, those applying for a license would still have to provide “satisfactory” proof of identity, date of birth and Massachusetts residency.
The bill sets out the documents that could be used for this purpose. First, someone must present a valid, unexpired foreign passport or consular ID. The second form of identification may include an unexpired driver’s license from any state or territory of the United States, a birth certificate, an unexpired valid foreign ID card or foreign driver’s license, or a marriage certificate issued in Massachusetts.
Immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses would not be registered to vote following their candidacy, and permits would not be available until July 1, 2023.
Lynn Mayor Jared Nicholson pointed to flags hanging in his office representing the more than 40 languages spoken in public schools as a measure of Lynn’s diversity and the broad community this bill would benefit.
He also referred to a point in the pandemic where the city’s school bus provider was unable to transport all students due to capacity issues and said this legislation would have helped alleviate that.
“It was incredibly frustrating for us as a city, for these students and families, for the school department,” Nicholson said. “One of the things that was particularly frustrating and just plain unfair was that for some families trying to get to school during this time, in particular, there was this inability to legally get a driver’s license that would allow them to legally get their children’s driver’s license to school.”
For Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, there are three main reasons for supporting this bill: moral considerations, economic effects and public safety.
Enabling people to have access to a driver’s license provides increased access to work and study opportunities, and to enjoy the “quality of life that so many of us know”. Economically, having access to a vehicle opens doors for applying for new jobs and even starting your own business, Driscoll said.
“It makes no sense that drivers don’t have access to a driver’s license,” she said. “Do we want to support people who are new to our community and their ability to grow and prosper in the same way that we who were born here have this opportunity? I think the answer to that is yes.
Public safety was a consideration for several of the leaders, including Chelsea Town Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino.
“I have no doubt this will improve public safety in our community, having more of our residents trained and legitimately licensed and insured on a road will absolutely make a difference in safety and I think that’s why my Chief of Police and major chiefs and other public safety organizations support this effort,” he said.
The Driving Families Forward Coalition has a number of supporters from community, faith and business groups, as well as Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, the MA Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association and a a number of other law enforcement agencies. officers.
Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan echoed the thoughts of other leaders and said he was proud to support the effort.
“At the end of the day, as elected officials, we always have to have a moral compass and work with our constituency as needed,” Sullivan said. “So it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?”
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