Politics

Massachusetts House passes bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses

The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday that would allow residents without legal immigration status to obtain driver’s licenses.

Encouraged by support from law enforcement, the measure got enough votes in the heavily Democratic chamber to overcome a potential veto from Republican Governor Charlie Baker.

The tally was 120-36 and came after a two-hour debate on the bill, which would allow residents to prove their identity with documents such as a foreign passport and birth certificate.

“This is a public safety bill. It’s about making sure we keep all of our communities safe, that we have drivers that are licensed that go through the right process, and that’s why all the major chiefs across the commonwealth supported this bill, because they know it makes all of us safer,” said Massachusetts State Rep. Andy Vargas.

The bill requires individuals provide documentation to obtain a license including proof of their identity, residency in the state and date of birth. The new rules would apply to those who do not have proof they are in the country legally, including those who are not eligible for a Social Security number.

Those seeking a license must present at least two documents. The first must be either a valid unexpired foreign passport or a valid unexpired consular identification.

A second kind of identification could include an unexpired driver’s license from any US state or territory, a birth certificate, a valid unexpired foreign national identification card or foreign driver’s license, or a marriage certificate issued in Massachusetts.

At least one document must contain a photograph. The bill also states that immigrants eligible for the driver’s licenses would not be registered to vote as a result.

Rep. Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster), a former state police sergeant, said the bill “isn’t a slam-dunk in the world of law enforcement by any measure.” He said many in that realm have “serious concerns” when it comes to the validity of a person’s documentation.

“My family came into this country from Ireland. I have no idea what a certified birth certificate looks like from County Cork where my family is from,” he said from the floor of the House.

“Are we demanding too much of our Registry of Motor Vehicle clerks? Are we asking them to become experts in foreign documentation and forgery detection? Are we establishing bifurcated sets of requirements for citizens and foreign nationals with legal presence versus those here without legal presence?”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: BOSTON GLOBE

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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