Massachusetts GOP Senate Leader Backs Driver’s Licenses For Illegal Immigrants

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By Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

Immigrants without legal status would be permitted to seek standard Massachusetts driver’s licenses under a bill the state Senate plans to debate Thursday, May 5, and the chamber’s top Republican wants to overhaul the legislation to instead create an entirely new license type with separate eligibility requirements.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) filed a suite of amendments to the licensing bill (S.2851) Democrats hope to approve, several of which seek to make the kinds of licenses immigrants in the country illegally could receive distinct from existing options in form, function, or both.

The most sweeping amendment Tarr offered (#13) would continue to bar illegal immigrants from seeking either a REAL ID-compliant or standard license but make them eligible for “driver privilege cards.”

Under Tarr‘s amendment, those cards would have a different background color from driver’s licenses and could not be used as government-issued identification. To be eligible, immigrants would need to have no felony conviction history, demonstrate they have lived in Massachusetts for at least five years, and submit “proof that all federal and state taxes have been paid.” 

Tarr filed several other amendments, including one that would require any license issued to an undocumented immigrant be visually distinct (#2) and another imposing steeper penalties on immigrants without legal status who operate a vehicle while unlicensed or uninsured than on American citizens who do the same (#12).

Altogether, state senators submitted 25 proposed changes to the legislation, 15 of which came from Tarr alone. Four amendments, all from Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), had been withdrawn as of Tuesday afternoon, May 3.

Democrats, who hold 37 of the Massachusetts Senate’s 40 seats, are hoping to secure at least a two-thirds majority to indicate they would have the votes necessary to override a potential veto from Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, who on Monday, May 2 reiterated his concerns with the bill.


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