Baker Passes On Bid To Threaten License Bill Veto
Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that he supports the status quo but stopped short of saying that he would veto legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Massachusetts if it reaches his desk.
The Joint Committee on Transportation last week advanced a redrafted bill that would allow residents without proof of lawful presence in the United States, including individuals ineligible for a Social Security number, to obtain a license if they have sufficient alternative documentation that proves their identity, date of birth and residency in the Bay State.
The House is expected to debate and vote on the legislation this week, and supporters say they hope to convince Baker to join them. “So we worked hard a few years ago to pass bipartisan legislation to establish the process in Massachusetts that required lawful presence and I support that position,” Baker, who in the past has said he is opposed to the idea of issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, said Monday when asked about the bill.
Baker alluded to a 2016 state law to bring Massachusetts into compliance with the federal Real ID law. Asked whether he would exercise his veto power if the driver’s licenses bill reaches his desk this session, Baker reiterated his support for “the current position” and said that while he tends to be cautious about commenting about legislation that hasn’t been finalized, “we’ve made our position pretty clear that we’re pretty happy with where we are.”
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The idea has been a frequent topic of activism on Beacon Hill but its progress through the legislative process has repeatedly stalled. Supporters argue that allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain official state driver’s licenses would improve public safety by ensuring that everyone driving on Massachusetts roads has the proper training and insurance.
On Monday, advocates with Act On Mass and several other coalitions pointed to the issue as one of a handful that is leading to “broken hearts.” “Over the course of this legislative session, lawmakers have kept the doors of the State House closed to the people – possibly hoping we will go away quietly,” an unidentified immigrant community organizer from Movimiento Cosecha MA said in a press release. “We will continue to show up … we will be seen, we will be heard! No more promises… No more delays… No more fear… Licenses for everyone now!” – Colin A. Young/SHNS