Blog Post: Massachusetts Work and Family Mobility Act
October 28, 2022
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Blog
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. On July 1, 2023, Rhode Island will join this list when legislation passed this June goes into effect. Massachusetts may also join the list, if voters approve the Work and Family Mobility Act in the upcoming November election.
What is the Massachusetts Work & Family Mobility Act?
On May 26th, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Work and Family Mobility Act. Set to go into effect in 2023, the bill enables all eligible state residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for a state driver’s license. Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the bill, but the House and Senate overrode the veto by votes of 119-36 and 32-8, respectively. However, Massachusetts voters will have the final say over the bill’s future on the November 8, 2022 State Election Ballot.
Senator Adam Gomez, one of the bill’s main sponsors, says the legislation is beneficial to road safety and would discourage undocumented immigrants from fleeing police during traffic stops. Evidence from other states suggests that a measurable increase in public safety follows the passage of similar laws. A report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center noted that “Connecticut found a 9 percent decrease in hit-and-run crashes in the few years after it enabled drivers without status to obtain licenses.” The same report found that “both Utah and New Mexico saw dramatic decreases in their rates of uninsured drivers when they began licensing drivers regardless of immigration status – by 80 percent and 60 percent.” All new applicants would need to pass the state’s driving test, making roads safer for the community at large.
Based on figures from the Migration Policy Institute, Massachusetts has an estimated 200,000 immigrants without legal status. Over half of these individuals are over the age to obtain a driver’s license but have no legal way to do so. To apply for a driver’s license under the Work and Family Mobility Act, an undocumented immigrant would need to provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles with (1) a foreign passport or identification document and (2) a birth certificate, a foreign national ID card, a marriage certificate obtained in any U.S. territory, a driver’s license from another state, or a foreign driver’s license. The law also requires procedures to be put in place that ensure applicants without lawful presence are not automatically registered to vote.
For a summary of the bill, click here.
Law enforcement’s support for the Work & Family Mobility Act
Members of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association (MMCC), a group of police chiefs that serve the 41 largest communities in Massachusetts, have explicitly supported the legislation. Police chiefs say the legislation enhances public safety, public health, and public trust as it prompts individuals to be trained and have insurance. Below are excerpts of what several Massachusetts members of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) are saying about the Work and Family Mobility Act:
Chief Roy Vasque (Lawrence, MA): I support the Family Mobility Act because I believe the undocumented persons affected should have the ability to drive to work, bring their children to school and seek medical attention. Every person should have the ability to provide for themselves and their family without unnecessary fear of law enforcement. For those with concerns, I would say that Massachusetts is not the first state to adopt this type of bill. It has been proven in other parts of the country.
Chief Chris Reddy (Lynn, MA): Immigrants in Lynn are valued members of the community who make important contributions to the overall quality of life as well as to the economy. This bill will enable them to care for their families and it will increase the trust between police and the immigrant community. It is simply the right thing to do.
Sheriff Peter Koutoujian (Middlesex, MA): This bill will improve public safety and public health, safer roads because of more insured motorists. Healthier communities from improved access to care. This bill is about more than operating a vehicle, it’s really about a lifeline to the services that we need to support our families and our communities.
Source: CBS News
Chief Paul Oliveira (New Bedford, MA): I support it. New Bedford is a very diverse community, and we have a very large Central American population. And that population, as we know, works. A lot of them work predominantly in the fish houses and the fishing industry. They’re a huge component to our society here in New Bedford and they’re a huge asset, they should be able to drive to their work legally like the rest of us.
Source: South Coast Today
Written by Graciela Ponce, LEITF intern