Massachusetts allows illegal immigrants to apply for a driver’s license

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Massachusetts illegal immigrants will be able to get driver’s licenses after state lawmakers voted on Thursday to override Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto on the legislation.

The state Senate voted 32-8 over Baker’s objection and a day after the House voted 119-36 on the same measure, dubbed the Work and Family Mobility Act. Both houses are controlled by Democrats. The bill, H.4805, would allow those without legal status to apply for a driver’s license if they can show proof of identity and Massachusetts residency.

On Wednesday, State House Speaker Ron Mariano said the legislation “will increase safety on our roads by ensuring everyone has access to a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status.”

Baker vetoed the bill last month, saying in a letter to the House that it “voids an essential safeguard of the driver’s licensing process” and that the Motor Vehicle Registry has no expertise or ability to verify many types of documents from other countries.

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“We are a nation of immigrants. We all benefit from increased public safety,” state Senate Speaker Karen Spilka said after Baker’s May veto. “And everyone deserves to feel safe and get to work, pick up kids and be part of their community without fear. The @ma_senate looks forward to overriding this wrong decision.”

Under the new law, a person illegally in the country would have to provide a passport or consular ID to apply for a driver’s license.

They will also need to provide one of five additional documents: a driver’s license from another US state or territory; a birth certificate; a foreign national identity card; a foreign driving licence; or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any US state or territory.

Supporters of the bill said it would allow thousands of unlicensed drivers to get to work and school without fear and improve road safety. Critics argue that this could have negative impacts on public safety and could threaten the electoral process.

“I am very concerned about the impacts this bill will have on public safety and the integrity of our elections,” Republican Representative Steve Xiarhos said on social media on Wednesday. “I have consistently voted against this bill and I remain opposed to its passage.”

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The bill will come into force in July 2023.

With the passage of the law, Massachusetts joins 16 other states and Washington DC, which have similar laws. Other states like California, New York and Utah are already doing the same.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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