Advocates for legislation that would enable undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts to access driver’s licenses are turning to supporters from a variety of sectors to make their case as a bill-reporting deadline approaches.
Ahead of a Feb. 2 deadline for most committees to vote on bills assigned to them, the Driving Families Forward Coalition has scheduled a series of virtual briefings on the bills (H 3456, S 2289) filed by Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier and Sen. Brendan Crighton. The first, on Thursday, featured religious leaders, and upcoming events will highlight support among law enforcement, municipal officials, and health and business leaders.
“Some argue we should change the laws out of compassion. But immigrant workers aren’t doing us a favor, and they shouldn’t be forced to depend on our compassion,” said Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton. “They make our country run. They need justice, not pity.”
Last session, the Transportation Committee advanced the bill on a 14-4 vote. Senate President Karen Spilka expressed support in 2019 and House Speaker Ron Mariano has said he sees “value“ in the proposal, though neither leader has named it among their priorities or signaled intent to bring it to the floor.
Supporters said people need driver’s licenses to take children to school, buy groceries and access health care. Sheikh Mirza Yawar Baig of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts said making licenses available regardless of immigration status is especially important “because we do not have anything coming close to a good public transportation system.”
Pastor Dieufort Fleurissaint said newly arrived migrants, people whose temporary protected status has expired, and asylum seekers can face challenges in seeking a license to drive, creating a barrier to finding and holding a job.
“A driver’s license is essential to also essential workers,” he said.