For Immediate Release: Driver’s License Bill for Undocumented Immigrants moved to Economic Development Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, July 27, 2020
CONTACT: Italo Fini, Massachusetts AFL-CIO
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Frank Soults, SEIU 32BJ
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Driver’s License Bill for Undocumented Immigrants moved to Economic Development Bill
Black and Brown Immigrants Demand: “If Not Now, When?”
BOSTON – On Friday, the Driving Families Forward Coalition sanctioned adding the Work and Family Mobility Act as an amendment to the Economic Development Bill, which is scheduled for consideration in the State House today. One hundred forty businesses have endorsed the drivers’ license act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a regular Massachusetts driver’s license, thus boosting revenue and economic activity in the state.
But while the bill’s economic benefits have always been undeniable, the moral imperative has never been stronger. By last count, the Economic Development Bill has 499 amendments. Only one of these has led advocates to camp out in front of the State House for over ten days, facing brutal heat and racist threats (see Cosecha press release here). Only one has inspired labor leaders from across Massachusetts to pledge themselves to a fast. Only one has moved over 190 faith leaders from across the state to sign a letter of support [LINK].
Most recently, Virginia became the seventeenth state to allow licenses for undocumented immigrants, yet the Massachusetts legislature continues its historic recalcitrance to support its one million foreign-born residents, a shameful history that has killed every single major piece of legislation raised primarily to protect immigrant rights. As the legislature demands action for Black and brown residents facing police brutality, they have so far refused to pass the only bill that would directly end a primary justification for profiling Black and brown drivers (a bill that is also endorsed by Mass. Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association). Whether documented or not, immigrants also make up a disproportionately large segment of the essential workforce, and the driver’s license bill would help stop the spread of the coronavirus by allowing these workers to avoid crowded carpools, busses and trains. Not passing the bill, in effect, promotes contagion.
"Allowing immigrants to have a driver's license is a matter of human dignity,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance of Law and Social Action. “Right now, every time undocumented immigrants drive to get to their essential jobs -- stocking grocery store shelves, taking care of our elderly parents, cleaning our health care facilities -- they risk family separation and deportation. How can we ask them to keep us safe and healthy when we aren't willing to protect them, their health, and their families?"
Rowe was involved in organizing the faith letter sent to the Legislature with over 190 signatures and in preparing a video from some of those leaders pleading for passage.
The economic rationale for the bill is clear. According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, upwards of 275,000 undocumented immigrants resided in Massachusetts as of 2017. The driver’s license bill would permit a great proportion of these immigrants to pay licensing fees, guaranteeing a massive infusion of revenue into the state’s dwindling coffers, as well as providing an economic booster shot during a pandemic. Advocates in New Jersey, which recently passed its own version of the bill, estimate that insurance companies will gain over $200 million in premiums and the state over $11 million in license fees.
The Driving Families Forward Coalition unites over 200 organizations in the goal of making drivers’ licenses accessible to all qualified state residents, regardless of immigration status.
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