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In a 120 to 36 vote, with opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in the state House, the proposal, dubbed the Work and Family Mobility Act, was passed. Republicans displayed strong opposition to the proposed legislation, along with some Democrats.
The measure, which is likely to face a veto from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker should it pass through the Democrat-controlled state Senate, would allow any resident in the state – regardless of immigration status – to obtain driver’s licenses.
If approved, illegal immigrants would have the ability to obtain a standard driver’s license from the state, but not federally authorized versions which are compliant with REAL ID. Applicants would also be required to produce certain documentation like a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or proof of residency in Massachusetts.
According to the Eagle-Tribune, a publication based in the state, the “state Registry of Motor Vehicles would be prohibited under the proposal from asking a learner’s permit or driver’s license applicant about their citizenship or immigration status, even if they can’t provide proof of lawful presence.”
Republican state Rep. Lenny Mirra voted against the measure and said those residing in America illegally should not be given the opportunity to curtail state law in order to obtain a license.
“It is totally unfair to the people who have come to this country legally and have followed the rules,” Mirra said, according to the Tribune. “We shouldn’t be rewarding illegal behavior.”
Democrat state Rep. Andy Vargas said the move will make the state “more prosperous” and suggested this was not a debate over the immigration status of applicants.
“We are not here to debate our nation’s broken immigration system,” Vargas said, according to the Tribune. “We are here to do what is within our purview — to make Massachusetts safer, more prosperous and just.”
Baker formerly said he opposes giving licenses to illegal immigrants.
Should the measure be signed into law, Massachusetts would become the 16th state to provide illegal immigrants with the opportunity to get a driver’s license – joining California, New York, Utah, and other states.