Immigrants without legal status had reason to celebrate Thursday, when the state’s Senate passed a driver’s license bill advocates say will allow them to drive safely and without fear of doing so illegally.
“Since undocumented immigrants need to drive to work, and the grocery store, and virtually all other aspects of their daily lives, ensuring safety on the roads is paramount,” Elizabeth Sweet, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, said in Thursday release.
“MIRA has supported universal access to driver’s licenses since 2003, when it was first introduced on Beacon Hill. We are thrilled to see the years of diligent and tireless work by so many immigrant leaders and advocates finally coming to fruition,” she said.
The Work and Family Mobility Act moved through the senate by a veto proof majority, 32-8, with each of 15 amendments offered by Republican Minority Leader Bruce Tarr rejected in turn.
The bill lets those who demonstrate their identity but can’t demonstrate legal status to earn licenses, which advocates say will make the roads safer by allowing those drivers to go through the driver’s testing process.
According to Tarr, the ramifications of granting licenses to those without legal status will be felt in more places than traffic, an outcome he reminded his colleagues to consider.
“That…is our highest responsibility, to ensure that when we act in this chamber, in order to remedy one thing, that we do not cause problems for public safety, and our voting system, and identification,” the Gloucester senator said.
Several of Tarr’s amendments offered ways to distinguish between a license granted to a person with legal status and a person without. Senators rejected those amendments as an easy means of prejudicing those without legal status.
“There is really no need for anyone to know what the citizenship status is of the drivers that plan to earn a driver’s license under this bill,” Sen. Brendan Crighton said.
Gov. Charlie Baker would not say Thursday whether he would bother to veto the bill, which passed both chambers by veto proof margins. The two legislative chambers will have to work out their differences, described as technical by one senator, before Baker must decide.
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