Story at a glance
- The Massachusetts House is set to debate a bill that would make driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants.
- While supporters say the measure would improve public health and safety, critics argue it would make committing identity fraud much easier.
- If the bill passes, Massachusetts will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia in issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
The Massachusetts House is slated to debate a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Should that bill eventually become law, Massachusetts would join 16 other states and the District of Columbia, which have enacted similar legislation.
Under the Massachusetts bill, known as the Work and Family Mobility Act, driver’s licenses would be available to undocumented immigrants if they are able to provide documentation like a foreign birth certificate, foreign passport, or evidence of current residency in the state.
Advocates have argued that the measure would improve public safety by increasing the number of insured drivers in the state and better public health by making public transportation less crowded.
“All Boston and Massachusetts adults deserve access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu (D) said in a statement late last month. “I support the Family Mobility Act because it will make all of us safer.”
Wu in a statement in late January joined 14 other Massachusetts mayors and city managers calling on state lawmakers to pass the bill, which they said would make Massachusetts communities safer and more equitable.
Other supporters have argued that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants could even benefit the economy, and the ACLU of Massachusetts in a June letter estimated Massachusetts could see $5 million from initial license and vehicle registration fees alone.
The bill would also give undocumented residents of Massachusetts, where the ability to drive in most places is “essential,” much-needed mobility, according to the ACLU.
“Withholding licenses from qualified drivers who depend on the ability to drive for their jobs and their families’ wellbeing puts them in a desperate situation — they must choose either to severely limit their mobility and access to key services, or drive illegally, opening themselves up to arrest and possible deportation,” the organization wrote in June 2021.
Those who oppose the bill say it would do more harm than good, potentially opening the door to identity fraud.
Issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants would “enable them to hide in plain sight with an official identification – either in their identity or one they decide to create,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, told Changing America.
“It’s compromising the integrity of the identity authentication process,” she said.
Vaughan said she’s unsure whether the bill will pass considering a large number of Massachusetts voters oppose the measure, which may be an incentive for elected officials to vote against it.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who is not running for reelection, in the past has said he would not support issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. may obtain a driver’s license in the following places:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
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