Around New England

Union Proclaims Fast To Try To Get Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants in Massachusetts

July 21, 2020

Service Employees International Union officials say they plan to fast for a day to pressure state legislators to pass a bill that would enable illegal immigrants to get standard driver’s licenses in Massachusetts.

Union officials are linking the inability of people here illegally to get a driver’s license legally with the current public health crisis.

“By denying tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants the ability to get a license, we are increasing the likelihood of coronavirus transmission and worsening the trust between Black and brown residents and law enforcement,” said Roxana Rivera, vice president of the 32BJ SEIU union, in a written statement. “Never has there been a more important time for this bill to pass than now. That is why I am committed to participate in this fast.”

The press release does not describe the details of the fast.

Supporters of the measure also proclaimed a hunger strike this past winter to try to cajole the Joint Committee on Transportation of the Massachusetts Legislature to recommend the bill, which it did on February 5.

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

The measure supported by the union, which includes many Spanish-speaking immigrants, is contained in two bills (Massachusetts House Bill 3012 and Massachusetts Senate Bill 2061), each titled “An Act Relative To Work and Family Mobility.”

The proposed legislation would replace the language currently in state law not allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses to the following:

“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.”

Supporters of the proposed legislation say illegal immigrants need to drive to work and other places, and that they deserve to do so lawfully.

Opponents say issuing a driver’s license to people not in the country legally would encourage more illegal immigration and imperil safety, since the presence of illegal immigrants is largely undocumented.

Activists are trying to tie the driver’s licenses bill to debate on a police reform package expected to take place in the State House on Wednesday, July 22 and Thursday, July 23, according to State House News Service.

The current two-year formal legislative session is scheduled to end July 31.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said on September 4, 2019 that he opposes enabling illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

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