The House and Senate in Massachusetts plan to hold a hearing on two bills that would allow illegal immigrants living in the state to apply for a driver’s license.
The two bills, filed by Democratic Rep.Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield and Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn, would allow those who qualify to apply for a license, regardless of immigration status, reported Boston.com.
Several lawmakers are co-sponsoring the bills, and supporters argue that allowing illegal immigrants to get legitimate licenses will help make roads safer.
According to Wbur, fourteen states already have laws in place allowing illegal immigrants to acquire licenses and permits. The legislation, however, would not affect federal Real ID-compliant licenses which require proof of citizenship.
Farley-Bouvier claims that she and other supporters of the bill hope to separate driving and immigration policy, “We all know here that the Massachusetts Legislature does not have control over the very broken immigration system we have in this country.
“If the Massachusetts Legislature did have control of it, we would have fixed it years ago,” she said at the recent hearing before the Transportation Committee.
“What we know is what we can control and that is the laws of the commonwealth, and driver’s licenses are the purview of the commonwealth. … This is pretty basic, don’t you think that every driver should have a vision test before they get behind the wheel of a car?” she added.
Those who support the bills claim that by allowing the estimated 185,000 undocumented immigrants to obtain proper driver training, licensing, and insurance legally, the roads will become a safer environment for drivers.
“This is a public safety bill. The passage of this bill will mean that all drivers in the commonwealth will be trained, will be licensed, and will be insured,” said Farley-Bouvier.
“When all drivers are trained, licensed, and insured, all drivers, all passengers, all cyclists—Senator Brownsberger—and pedestrians are safer.”
According to CBS Boston, MBPC President Marie-Frances Rivera told reporters, the legislation is “economically sensible, and simply the right thing to do.”
“Licensing drivers without documents not only allows them and their families to access basic necessities, it also allows employers to access more qualified workers in our tight labor market,” she said.
The Massachusetts Coalition for Immigration Reform, however, argue that the bill has “nothing to do with safe driving.” Instead it aims “to make it easier for illegal aliens to live in our state.”
“A whopping 200,000 illegal aliens already reside in Massachusetts—up one third from a decade ago—taking jobs that would otherwise go to lawful residents, and driving down the wages of low-skilled residents who are still working, because an oversupply of any resource reduces its value,” the organization stated in a press release.
“Illegal immigration also leads to higher crime, reduced quality of health care for residents, especially low-income residents—and it crowds schools and lowers the quality of primary and secondary education. Illegal immigrants also use other social services, and drive up the cost of education, and drive up welfare costs—partly by putting Americans out of work.”
Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters that he also doesn’t support the legislation, “My problem with giving licenses to people who are undocumented is just that.
“There’s no documentation to back up the fact that they are who they say they are and a driver’s license is a passport to a lot of things and I think our view is the law we passed, which basically says as long as you have lawful presence dictated by the federal government you can get a driver’s license in Mass, that’s the policy we support,” he said.
Passing the bills would allegedly—in the first three years—generate an estimated $6 million in state revenue, and lower premiums by about $20 per year.