Geoff Diehl Explains Opposition To Driver’s Licenses For Illegal Immigrants

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Geoff Diehl thinks the Massachusetts legislature made a mistake.

The former state representative from Whitman and current Republican candidate for governor thinks the Massachusetts legislature made a short-sighted decision when it passed a law making illegal immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses earlier this year.

The bill (H.4805) passed 119-36 in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and 32-8 in the Senate; the legislature enacted the law despite bipartisan opposition and a veto from the Governor Charlie Baker.

Now, Fair and Secure Massachusetts is spearheading a signature-gathering effort in hopes of having a veto referendum on the November 2022 ballot. The organization wants the voters to decide the law — and repeal the law.

Diehl, who supports this initiative, and told NewBostonPost in an in-person interview in his Plymouth office why illegal immigrants shouldn’t be eligible for driver’s licenses.

He expressed sympathy for people who want to immigrate to the United States, but said this bill doesn’t fix the real problem. 

“Yeah so here’s the thing:  the opposition to illegal immigrants having driver’s licenses is not an anti-immigrant position,” Diehl said. “Actually, what I want to do is make sure that immigrants are able to come to this country and be naturalized as quickly as possible once they meet the requirements. But what happens when they are in the workforce is they’re paying taxes, including payroll taxes, but they’ll never be eligible for Social Security in the end. It’s at a disadvantage for them in the long-term to be working under the table so-to-speak as not being naturalized citizens. “

“The goal is to stop trying to figure out workarounds to the core problem which is getting people who want to be citizens to be citizens,” Diehl added. “What we need to do is make sure that we aren’t incentivizing people to come to our state and get all of the state services and benefits without taking that investment of actually becoming citizens. What other country would allow Americans to go and do the same? You can get temporary driving permits if you’re visiting other countries. But to give somebody a long-term, permanent Massachusetts driver’s license, it really is putting a Band-Aid on a long-term problem.”

Diehl also expressed concerns with the way the program will be administered. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will provide illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses, if the law stays in place. 

The state Registry of Motor Vehicles automatically registers people to vote unless they opt out. Diehl said he worries that this scenario may result in illegal immigrants being registered to vote.

“What happens is once they become enrolled as a voter, there’s virtually no way for town clerks to try to verify whether or not they’re actually citizens,” Diehl said.

Diehl cited the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s past problems, including the Brockton registry giving 2,000 people driver’s licenses over the span of several years without their even taking a road test, and the Merit Rating Board reportedly failing to address thousands of out-of-state driver violation notices under the leadership of Thomas Bowes (now a Braintree town councilor). 

“The RMV has had major problems in the past in dealing with, first of all, people getting their licenses suspended out of state – just getting that processed,” Diehl said. “That led to an actual death of marines a couple of years ago by a driver who should have had his license pulled but didn’t, and then was driving under the influence and killed them. And this ballot initiative is being led by Maureen Maloney whose son was killed by somebody who was here illegally driving and put an American life in danger and, ultimately, killed him. Those are the problems with the RMV as far as processing.”

 “I really feel like that’s not the branch that should be verifying whether somebody is in this state legally and deserves some sort of state identification,” he added. “There’s a myriad of problems when it comes to having the RMV being the administrator of this.”

Additionally, Diehl questioned whether there is a need for illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses in the Commonwealth.

“This is a solution in search of a problem. People have been able to find their way into Massachusetts. They’re able to get to and from work. The other problem is that if they are driving illegally, getting a license doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to go out there and purchase car insurance. They may still go out there and if they get in an accident not be covered for the over driver. It’s not the end all be all that people think it is,” Diehl said.

Diehl’s Republican primary opponent, Wrentham businessman Chris Doughty, also opposes providing providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Like Diehl, his team has also collected signatures to help get this question on the ballot.

“Our team will collect signatures for the ballot question to repeal licenses for illegals,” Doughty tweeted on June 29. “These licenses could be a pathway for those who are not legally in our country to voting, and could make MA even more of a magnet state for illegals, overburdening taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, attorney general Maura Healey, the Democrat in the race for governor, suppports letting illegal immigrants obtain driver’s licenses.

Healey’s campaign web site lists “Ensuring that eligible undocumented residents can receive a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status” as a policy priority.

“Everyone in Massachusetts should be able to drive to work, school, the grocery store, and the hospital safely and without fear. We need the Work and Family Mobility Act,” Healey tweeted on April 25.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia offer driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, according to The Hill.

In Massachusetts, the proposed ballot question to repeal the new driver’s-license law is what’s known as a referendum petition. 

The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office states:  “A referendum petition is a way for people to propose repealing a law enacted by the Legislature and [is] voted on in statewide general elections. Referendum petitions to repeal a law are filed with the Secretary of State’s Office 30 days after the law is enacted.”

For the question to make it onto the statewide ballot, supporters will need to collect 40,120 certified signatures of registered voters by Wednesday, August 24. Milford Republican state committeewoman Maureen Maloney previously told NewBostonPost that to be safe, supporters are aiming to obtain 60,000 signatures.

Supporters of the initiative think they have enough signatures to get it on the ballot. Local town and city clerks have certified more than the required amount of signatures (40,120) for the question to make the ballot, according to Politico. However, the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office still needs to certify signatures and the campaign is continuing to collect signatures, according to the campaign’s web site.

A June 2022 UMass Amherst poll found that 46 percent of Bay Staters oppose giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants while 40 percent support the idea.

For more information on the initiative, go to


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