Washington, D.C. – Massachusetts passed new state legislation this week to allow undocumented residents access to driver’s licenses, with the state legislature overcoming a veto from GOP Governor Charlie Baker.
This breakthrough comes after years of organizing and advocacy by many in the state, and offers an important reminder of how dedicated advocates can win important legislative victories. With this win, Massachusetts becomes the 17th state in the country, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. That means that approximately 140 million people now live in states or jurisdictions where driver’s licenses are available to drivers regardless of immigration status.
According to reporting from WBUR, in overriding the Governor’s veto, lawmakers stressed the benefits to public safety and the Massachusetts economy:
“The House of Representatives’s vote to override Governor Baker’s veto will ensure that all drivers know the rules of the road and are registered and insured,” Rep. Christine Barber, a Somerville Democrat who initially sponsored the bill in the House, said in a statement Wednesday. “We filed this bill to enable all residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for a driver’s license so they can get to work, take their children to school and doctor appointments, and buy groceries.”…
Supporters have long argued that the legislation will make roads safer by ensuring more of the 185,000 immigrants who already live in Massachusetts without legal status are properly trained, licensed and insured to drive, while also helping people who are currently ineligible for licenses get to jobs and family obligations, especially in areas without public transit.
Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, a Springfield Democrat, described the bill as not only a public safety measure but also as “a dignity issue that gives every family the ability to obtain a document that can provide them the ability to drive, take their children to the hospital, go to work … And instead of being tax burdens, they’re taxpayers — that’s a benefit to Massachusetts, every single person in Massachusetts.“
The following is a quote from Mario Carrillo, Campaigns Manager at America’s Voice:
“Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts and across the country live, work, contribute, and yes, drive. Opportunities for immigrants to more fully participate in their state and country they call home leads to safer and better outcomes for all of us.
Lower insurance rates, safer streets and greater economic opportunities are a dividend paid to all. We congratulate all of our friends and colleagues in Massachusetts for their hard work and commitment, which led to this breakthrough.”