Baker amendment clarifies Mass. law: No driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants

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BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker plans to file an amendment to the Massachusetts state budget that he says will keep illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses, according to a report in the Boston Herald.

Massachusetts has until October to meet federal identification standards developed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in an effort to thwart terrorism. The law requires states to issue secure forms of identification, potentially replacing driver’s licenses. The Transportation Security Administration has granted Massachusetts a waiver on compliance that expires this fall. If the state fails to act before the deadline, it is possible that individuals with Massachusetts driver’s licenses will not be able to enter federal buildings or board airplanes at major airports.

Some activists claim that the requirements will impact privacy by paving the way for a national database. To get a Real ID-compliant license, citizens must provide certain documents, including photo identification and proof of their date of birth, social security number, address and lawful status in the U.S.

Massachusetts lawmakers recently attached a policy rider to the state budget that creates a two-tier system to address privacy concerns while still bringing the state into compliance with federal law. Under this approach, individuals could apply for a regular Massachusetts license if they choose not to supply the additional documentation required for a Real ID. These licenses would not be valid for federal purposes, including airport security. Fourteen states have adopted similar two-tiered approaches.

But some conservatives say the two-tiered approach does not go far enough to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses.

Late last month, the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, an organization led by outgoing Republican State Committeewoman Chanel Prunier, called on Governor Baker to “reject the idea of issuing any license to an individual who is here illegally.”

Massachusetts law does not currently allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. According to the Herald, Baker’s proposed amendment is simply a clarification of current law and states: “No license of any type may be issued to any person who does not have lawful presence in the United States.”