Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants? Bill Hearing Today

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A legislative committee plans to hold a hearing later today on a bill that would allow illegal immigrants in Massachusetts to get driver’s licenses.

State law currently states (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 8):  “No license of any type may be issued to any person who does not have lawful presence in the United States.”

Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law in July 2016 clarifying that illegal immigrants are not allowed to get a Massachusetts driver’s license. The bill also sought to bring the state into compliance with federal REAL ID standards. Massachusetts now has a two-tiered driver’s license – one that allows a license holder to drive, and one that allows a license holder to drive and board an airplane and enter a federal building beginning in October 2020. But neither one is available to noncitizens who do not have legal residency in the United States.

Advocates for illegal immigrants say they need driver’s licenses and should have them.

The proposed legislation (Massachusetts House Bill 3012 and Massachusetts Senate Bill 2061) is known as the Work and Family Mobility Act. It states:

“Persons who are unable to provide proof of lawful presence, or who are ineligible for a social security number, may apply for a Massachusetts license if they meet all other qualifications for licensure and provide satisfactory proof to the registrar of identity, date of birth and Massachusetts residency.”

State Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville), one of the sponsors of the House version of the bill, says current state policy is unjust.


But Jim Lyons, the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Committee, sharply criticized the bill.

“Radical Democrats will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of transforming Massachusetts into a state where the privileges of individuals who came here illegally prevail over those who played by the rules,” Lyons said in a written statement Tuesday, September 3. “This latest scheme subverts federal immigration laws, with the hardworking taxpayers of Massachusetts of course being left to foot the bill.”

Lyons cited a September 2017 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports reducing immigration, estimating that illegal immigration cost Massachusetts taxpayers about $2 billion during 2017 in public education, publicly funded health care, police, prisons, public defenders, and other government benefits.

A November 2018 Pew Research Center report estimated that there were about 250,000 illegal immigrants in Massachusetts in 2016, an increase from about 220,000 in 2007. El Salvador is the top birth country, the report found.

“This legislation would make Massachusetts a target for even more fraud than it already experiences,” Lyons said. “The message the Radical Democrats are sending is that it’s O.K. to break our laws.”

The Joint Transportation Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature plans to hold a hearing on the bill at 10 a.m. Wednesday, September 4 in Room B-1 of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.