House Passes Driver’s License Bill

In an unprecedented effort to increase safety on the roads, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation that will allow applicants who are unable to prove lawful presence in the United States to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license.

Under this legislation, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will not inquire about immigration status when processing an application for a Massachusetts driver’s license or registration, solely basing the issuance of driver’s licenses to residents who provide required documents to prove their identity, pass the corresponding driver tests, and meet all other eligibility criteria.

“I’m proud of the significant step that the House took today towards bringing all drivers under the same licensing and insurance standards, regardless of immigration status,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “In addition to increasing safety on our roads for all drivers, this legislation recognizes the essential role our immigrant neighbors play in our society and economy by ensuring that everyone has access to a driver’s license. I thank Chair Straus, Chair Michlewitz, the bill’s sponsors, and all my colleagues in the House, as well as countless supporters, immigration and labor advocates, and law enforcement officials for their tireless work to ensure its passage.”

“In line with the 16 other states that have passed laws offering standard licenses to those providing secure identification documents, this carefully crafted public safety legislation will mean that all drivers using our roads are identifiable, competent and insured,” said Representative William M. Straus (D-Mattapoisett), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

“I’m extremely grateful for the tireless advocacy that led to this pivotal moment. I also want to thank Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz, Chair Straus, and the House for their leadership on this important issue,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “All Boston and Massachusetts adults deserve access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. I support the Family Mobility Act because it will make all of us safer.”

“We cannot overstate our joy, pride and gratitude for today’s historic vote in the Massachusetts House of Representatives,” said the leaders of the organizations that co-chair the Driving Families Forward Coalition, Brazilian Worker Center Executive Director Lenita Reason and 32BJ SEIU Vice President Roxana Rivera. “We extend our deepest thanks to Speaker Mariano for his clear support in moving the bill through the legislative process, and we also thank the bill’s four lead sponsors, dozens of cosponsors and many thousands of individual supporters. Today, all of them have helped move our state toward safer roads, stronger public security, better public health, and a more robust economy, while also taking a step toward transforming the lives of immigrants and their families across the Commonwealth.”

“Immigrants without status are essential workers and card-carrying, dues-paying union members. Moreover, they are our neighbors, friends, and family and an integral part of our economy and community. With overwhelming support from law enforcement, this bill will provide greater public safety and allow workers to obtain and keep good paying jobs, all while making facets of everyday life that many of us take for granted, like getting kids to school, a reality. We commend Speaker Mariano and the entire Massachusetts House for voting to pass this important legislation that will result in safer roads for all Massachusetts residents,” said Steven A. Tolman, President, MA AFL-CIO.

“I want to thank all those legislators, law enforcement leaders, immigration advocates and public health officials who worked tirelessly to advance this bill through today’s historic vote in the House,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “Efforts on this issue date back to my time as a state representative. Then, as now, it was clear that this bill would improve public safety and public health. While I was supportive of this concept 20 years ago, it was the rigorous identification requirements in the final version of this bill that strengthened it further and made today’s vote possible. I applaud Speaker Mariano for bringing it to the floor and the individuals who lent their stories and voices to this important cause.”

To apply for a standard driver’s license, applicants will need to provide at least two documents to prove their identity and date of birth. All documents written in a foreign language must be accompanied by a certified translation to English:

• Document #1: valid unexpired foreign passport or valid unexpired consular ID

• Document #2: valid US driver’s license, birth certificate, valid foreign national ID card, valid foreign driver’s license, ora marriage certificate or divorce decree

Residents who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States would remain ineligible for a “REAL ID” which requires documentation of U.S. citizenship or lawful status as a matter of federal law. To protect applicants’ privacy, the legislation also prohibits the RMV from disclosing any information about applicants for and holders of a standard driver’s license except as authorized by regulations promulgated by the Attorney General.

“An Act relative to work and family mobility” (H.4461) passed the House of Representatives 120-36. It now goes to the Senate for their consideration.

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