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Immigrant activists push driver’s license bill

Bill making way through legislature

Suhra Nahib and Yawu Miller
Immigrant activists push driver’s license bill
Supporters of the Work and Family Mobility Act gather in front of the State House. PHOTO: SUHRA NAHIB

Supporters of efforts to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses gathered at the State House on Sept. 4 to push for passage of the Work and Family Mobility Act.

Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn, Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, Rep. Christine Barber of Somerville and other advocates presented the bill early Wednesday morning outside the State House. The legislation would let qualified residents apply for and receive a state license, regardless of their immigration status.

“Immigrants are an important part of our community. They live here, they work here, raise their families here, and should be able to drive like other folks in Massachusetts,” Barber said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe, licensed and insured — and we are looking forward doing that today.” 

Previously, progressive lawmakers connected the push for drivers licenses to other immigration reform efforts. Farley-Bouvier said that she hopes to separate the immigration policy and the driving policy. This is the third time Farley-Bouvier has pushed for such legislation.

In July 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that includes two license options for Massachusetts drivers — the standard license and the REAL ID. The standard license cannot be used in instances where federal identification is required, such as entering a federal building or boarding an airplane. Under current Massachusetts law, undocumented immigrants cannot obtain driver’s licenses of either type.

Supporters of the Work and Family Mobility Act argue that allowing undocumented residents to have driver’s licenses would make roads safer for everyone and enable immigrants to get to work. Many undocumented immigrants currently drive without a license or insurance.

Alberto, who has been a resident of Boston for 18 years, shared his personal story with reporters last week during the press conference. He has been driving in the U.S. for 17 years; he can buy a car in Massachusetts; he can register the vehicle. Four years ago, he bought his own house.

“To buy your own home and get a mortgage, you have shown a solid and consistent income tax,” he said. “And all we are advocating is to get an opportunity to be tested. We are driving already, so I just need an opportunity to get an education, to get knowledge, and to have a right to be on the road, because I am already on the road. So that’s all I need.”

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