Massachusetts Committee Considers Drivers’ Licenses for Illegal Aliens
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | September 2019
On September 4, the Massachusetts state legislature took a step toward granting drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens in the Bay State, which would make it the 14th state to do so. The Joint Committee on Transportation held a public hearing on Senate Bill (S.) 2061 and House Bill (H.) 3012, identical bills and euphemistically called the “Work and Family Mobility Act,” which would:
- Create a new category of drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens, defined as “Massachusetts licenses;”
- Redefine the old licenses that require proof of lawful presence as “REAL ID compliant” licenses;
- Exempt documents provided by applicants to prove identity and residency for the illegal-alien drivers’ licenses from public records requirements, which would require a subpoena, search warrant or court order to access them;
- Provide that someone being in possession of one of the new illegal-alien drivers’ licenses “shall not be used as evidence of the holder’s citizenship, nationality or immigration status, or as the sole basis for an investigation, citation, arrest, prosecution or detention of the holder by a law enforcement agency;” and
- Prohibit “discrimination” by employers, landlords and others, against anyone who has one of the new illegal-alien drivers’ licenses.
In January, Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) introduced the Senate version and Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) introduced the House version. Neither moved before September’s hearing. Open-borders groups flooded the legislature’s largest hearing room with people to support the bills. But the bills were also not without outspoken opponents.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson (R) testified against the bills at the hearing, and said: “passing these bills will make it even easier for criminal illegal aliens to evade law enforcement and victimize law-abiding U.S. citizens and Massachusetts residents … Making illegal immigrants eligible for official Massachusetts driver’s licenses is not only wrong, but it’s reckless. It will have a negative effect on the public safety of the people of the commonwealth.”
Boston Angel Mom Maureen Maloney also testified in opposition, describing how an illegal alien drunk driver killed her son Matthew in 2011. Shockingly, her testimony was at one point interrupted by boos, but she told the Boston Herald, “[i]t just made me more determined … I don’t want other people to lose their lives like Matthew did. I don’t want other families to go through the heartache that my family deals with. And that’s where I get the strength and the stamina to keep doing this."
House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) echoed Hodgson’s and Maloney’s sentiments, condemning the bills as “wrong policy” and “rewarding people that are here illegally.” He added that, “[s]upporters like to say if you’re against this bill, you are anti-immigrant. That’s not true.”
And the Massachusetts Coalition for Immigration Reform said the bills have “nothing to do with safe driving” but are meant “to make it easier for illegal aliens to live in the state.”
In its 2017 cost study, FAIR estimated that there were 236,460 illegal aliens living in Massachusetts, on whom the Commonwealth’s taxpayers spend just under $1.5 billion a year. Handing out additional benefits like drivers’ licenses would likely only serve as a magnet for additional illegal immigration and drive those numbers higher.
The committee has not yet voted on the bills. In addition to reporting them out favorably or unfavorably to the House and Senate floors, the committee could also vote to send them to study. In Massachusetts as in some other New England states, a committee filing a study order is a face-saving way for placing the bill in near limbo without having to vote it down: "[t]he vast majority of bills sent to a study order do not progress any further in the legislative process."
If either bill ultimately passes, Governor Charlie Baker (R) has said he will veto them. He reasons that “[t]here’s no documentation to back up the fact that [illegal aliens] are who they say they are and a driver’s license is a passport to a lot of things.” “I think our view is the law we passed, which basically says as long as you have lawful presence dictated by the federal government you can get a driver’s license in Mass, that’s the policy we support.”
It is unclear whether the legislature could override Gov. Baker’s promised veto. Under the Massachusetts Constitution, this would take a two-thirds vote of each chamber. Democrats could do this if they all stuck together, since they currently hold 127 of 160 seats in the House and 34 out of 40 in the Senate, but it is far from certain all the Democrats vote together.
Particularly in the House, Minority Leader Jones doesn’t think Democrats have the numbers for an override, and even Sen. Crighton, the bill’s Senate sponsor, thinks “it will take work[.]” House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) has at times supported Gov. Baker, and has been reluctant in the past to make some of his more moderate Democrat members take positions on extreme immigration measures. The Speaker does not appear to have publicly weighed in on the drivers’ license bills so far.