Environmental Groups Silent, Immigration Reductionist Groups Concerned Over Potential Environmental Impacts Of Giving Drivers’ Licenses To Illegal Immigrants

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/10/22/environmental-groups-silent-immigration-reductionist-groups-concerned-over-potential-environmental-impacts-of-giving-drivers-licenses-to-illegal-immigrants/

Should illegal immigrants be able to drive?

Some politicians think so. Some don’t. Environmental groups have been silent on the matter — and remain so this week, after being asked the question by New Boston Post.

It’s illegal in Massachusetts currently. Sponsors of S.2641 and H.3012, both titled “An Act Relative To Work and Family Mobility,” want to make it legal. Those politicians who support the measure haven’t spoken about its potential environmental impact.

So far, 17 states have already made it legal for illegal immigrants to get a state driver’s license, according to The Bay Net, including states neighboring Massachusetts like Connecticut, Vermont, and New York.

Here is an excerpt from the Massachusetts bill that would make the change:

SECTION 1. Section 8 of chapter 90 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out in lines 275 to 277 the sentence ‘No license of any type may be issued to any person who does not have lawful presence in the United States.” and inserting in place thereof the following:-

Persons who do not provide proof of lawful presence, including those who are ineligible for a social security number, shall be eligible 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. When processing an application for a Massachusetts license, a learner’s permit, or a motor vehicle registration, the registrar shall not inquire about or create a record of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status.

The legislation has 84 sponsors in the Massachusetts Legislature.

It also has the backing of politicians outside of the State House, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. In an opinion piece for WBUR back in February, he explained that support and why he wants to let more people drive cars.

“These are people who we need to get licenses — and would get licenses, if they could,” Walsh wrote. “These are hard workers that many industries and employers rely on. They are parents who depend on carpools to get their kids to school or themselves to work. They are college graduates whose visas expired and can no longer hold a license.

“They are our neighbors who started new lives here after fleeing natural disasters, and are worried about when their Temporary Protected Status will end and their ability to drive will be taken away,” he added. “They are the countless mothers and fathers whose American-born children will never have to face this barrier.”

Critics of the bill say that allowing illegal immigrants to drive legally in Massachusetts encourages illegal immigration. Some immigration-restrictionist groups also argue that it would hurt the environment by increasing carbon emissions beyond what they would otherwise be.

But environmental groups aren’t weighing in.

New Boston Post contacted seven pro-environment groups via email this past week. Some didn’t respond; others declined to state a position on the bill.

Ellen Tomlinson, a spokesman for the Environmental League of Massachusetts wrote back, “Thanks for reaching out but ELM will have to pass on this one. This is not an issue our team is prepared to comment on.”

Karly Matthews, communications director of the American Conservation Coalition, composed of many Republicans, wrote:  “we do not have a comment.”

Ruthy Rickenbacker from the Community Action Works communications department responded with:  “I don’t think we’re the right group to comment on this issue exactly.”

Yaritza Morales Gonzalez, the director of operations for GreenRoots Inc., had no comment, either.

“As a reporter, I am sure you’ve done your due diligence in researching who we are and what GreenRoots stands for. With this being said, GreenRoots does not have any comments to provide you in terms of the ‘potential environmental impacts’ the Safe Driving Bill will pose on documented and undocumented individuals,” Gonzalez wrote.

The mission statement on GreenRoots’s web site reads, “GreenRoots works to achieve environmental justice and greater quality of life through collective action, unity, education and youth leadership across neighborhoods and communities. GreenRoots is a community-based organization dedicated to improving and enhancing the urban environment and public health in Chelsea and surrounding communities. We do so through deep community engagement and empowerment, youth leadership and implementation of innovative projects and campaigns.”

All of these organizations favor reducing carbon emissions, including from cars and trucks. The Environmental League of Massachusetts supports making Massachusetts carbon-neutral by 2050 and the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would add a carbon fee for oil-based fuel. The American Conservation coalition wants the United States to have net-zero emissions by 2050. Community Action Works says that “it’s time to transition off fossil fuels entirely” on its web site. And GreenRoots is for reducing carbon emissions, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and expanding MBTA public transportation service.

Among other environmental groups, the Sunrise Movement, Mass Climate Action, and 350 Mass for a Better Future did not respond to New Boston Post’s requests for comment late last week and early this week. Neither did two sponsors of the bill, state Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville) and state Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield). The press office of Boston Mayor Walsh also did not respond.

The Sunrise Movement and Mass Climate Action have supported having fewer cars on the road while 350 Mass for a Better Future supports the Transportation and Climate Initiative to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles by raising the price of fuel.

State Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) responded but did not address the environment. He told New Boston Post in an email, “I think it is in everyone’s interest for more people to go through the driver education process and get their licenses.  It will make our roads safer.”

Among supporters of the bill, all have all said in the past that they want to reduce their communities’ carbon footprints. Walsh has pledged to make Boston carbon-neutral by 2050. Barber and Farley-Bouvier both support the Green New Deal. And Brownsberger supports making Massachusetts carbon-neutral by 2050.

Yet opponents of the driver’s license bill says issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants would undermine the goal of reducing carbon emissions.

Ira Mehlman, the media director for the immigration-restrictionist Federation for Immigration Reform, said increased carbon emissions is a likely negative consequence of the proposal.

Granting licenses and, by extension, putting more drivers and cars on the roads would obviously have some harmful environmental impact,” Mehlman wrote in an email message. “Given concerns about climate change, sprawl and other environmental issues – especially in states like Massachusetts – the goal should be reducing the number of cars on the road. Moreover, offering privileges like driver’s licenses and other benefits tends to attract more illegal immigration to jurisdictions that accommodate and reward illegal immigration, thereby making it more difficult to address many pressing environmental issues.”

Mehlman suggested the bill would also hurt the economy — particularly for U.S. citizens concerned about their jobs.

“Where Massachusetts’s decision to grant licenses to illegal aliens will likely have a greater impact is in other policy areas,” he wrote. “One of the arguments used to justify granting licenses to illegal aliens is that they need to be able to drive to their jobs – jobs that, under federal law, they are prohibited from holding and which are at a premium at a time of high unemployment. 

“It also regularizes illegal immigration, further eroding respect for our laws and imposing significant costs on already stressed taxpayers,” he added. “In addition to competition for jobs, illegal immigration places additional and costly demands on vital social institutions like school and public health facilities.”

Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, expressed similar concerns.

“The bill to allow the Registry to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens is a bad idea for many reasons, but especially because it would make Massachusetts even more of a magnet for illegal settlement, thus increasing stress on the environment and infrastructure,” Vaughan told New Boston Post by email. “This affects everyone, but especially those who live and work in cities and towns that are already grappling with traffic, crowding, and pollution problems. The last thing the commonwealth of Massachusetts needs is more cars on the road, more people competing for scarce affordable housing, and more people hooked up to the power grid.”

She also said that it’s disappointing to see environmental groups and environmentalist politicians ignore the immigration issue.

“Environmental groups used to care about these issues, but decades ago they abandoned principles on population stabilization and environmental justice to join ranks with mass migration advocates in pursuit of political power,” Vaughan wrote. “As a result, we see them pushing the limousine-liberal version of environmental progress, with ‘green new deals,’ expensive energy, and fancy electric cars when a more sensible focus on population stabilization would not only improve environmental quality for all but also protect jobs and wages for working-class Americans and legal immigrants.”

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (28.2 percent) in the United States, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Amanda MacMillian of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in 2016 how that contributes to global warming.

“Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface,” she wrote. “Normally, this radiation would escape into space — but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. That’s what’s known as the greenhouse effect.”

Additionally, on average an immigrant — legal or illegal — emits four times more carbon into the atmosphere while in the United States than that person would in the person’s native country, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The average American emits 14.6 tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. That number far exceeds the average emission among Mexicans in Mexico (3.6 tons), and also exceeds that of Central Americans in Central America, who live in countries where the average person emits fewer than 1.6 tons per year.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker opposes the proposal to provide driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants — he told State House News Service in February that he still thinks it’s a bad idea, as he did when he ran for governor in 2014.

Baker addressed the topic in a 2014 WGBH debate against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley

At the time, Baker reportedly said, “I don’t support driver’s licenses for people who are undocumented. And the main reason for that is no one’s ever been able to explain to me how you can actually document and verify someone who is undocumented.”

The governor’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.