By Sydney Topf
Boston University News Service
Massachusetts undocumented immigrants can now apply for driver’s licenses and learner’s permits starting July 1, 2023, after Massachusetts residents voted to uphold the law on ballot Question 4.
Massachusetts is now the 18th state to allow individuals who cannot verify immigration status to apply for a driver’s license with other forms of identification. However, these licenses do not allow undocumented immigrants to apply for “Real IDs” and will not automatically register them to vote. The former law states that to acquire a driver’s license, individuals must show proof of United States citizenship or lawful presence.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles will no longer ask for a person’s immigration status or proof of citizenship when applying for a license through the law. It now requires individuals to show proof of identity and date of birth through any two of: a valid unexpired foreign passport, consular identification document or a birth certificate.
The law was passed earlier in May and was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker because he believed the Registry of Motor Vehicles did not have the expertise or capacity to verify documents from other countries. Both Massachusetts Houses of Legislature overrode Baker’s veto.
Fair and Secure Massachusetts, a group created to repeal the proposed license law, collected the necessary signatures to put the law on the referendum for the 2022 election.
Supporters of the law argued that upholding the law would lead to safer roads and expand the rights of undocumented immigrants. Opponents of the bill, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl, argued the law would lead to increased voter fraud and reward migrants who break the law.
Sarah Sherman-Stokes, Boston University Law School Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, said such voter fraud claims are false.
“[Voter fraud claims] are dog whistles used by anti-immigrant groups to prevent people from accessing the rights and benefits of living here in the United States, “Sherma-Stokes said. “Alleged voter fraud by non-citizens is dramatically overblown and there is not evidence to support this will have any impact on that.”
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and several Massachusetts law enforcement leaders were in support of the law, including Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, Norfolk County Sheriff Patrick McDermott and Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque.
Sherman-Stokes also supported the bill and believes the law will allow undocumented immigrants to “live their lives and provide for their families.”
“It’s not often that we have such a coalition of folks behind something to protect the rights of immigrants and the rights of our community at large,” she said. “[The law] is common sense, it keeps all of us safe and it’s the right thing to do.”