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Massachusetts voters show support for undocumented immigrants and their right to driver's licenses

Demonstrators display a banner and chant slogans during a rally in front of the Massachusetts Statehouse on June 9, 2022, held in support of allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses in Massachusetts.
Steven Senne
/
AP
Demonstrators display a banner and chant slogans during a rally in front of the Massachusetts Statehouse on June 9, 2022, held in support of allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts residents have voted to uphold a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The measure passed by slim margins Wednesday.

Sen. Adam Gomez, D- Springfield, was one of several lawmakers who originally filed the bill to the state senate. He said the numbers speak for themselves.

"(There is) still a lot more work and education to prove to people that this was the right piece of legislation to pass," he said. "This is the right way to go for Massachusetts, in communities all over the state that have immigrants, migrants, you know, and give them the ability to make sure that our roads are safe."

About 54% of voters supported the measure, a close split with the 46% that did not, according to Associated Press results.

Gomez said granting undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses will make it easier for many people to get to and from work to support their families.

"We have pockets of immigrant communities that (are part of) a tremendous workforce and we don't have that ability with the transportation infrastructure in western Massachusetts," he said. "We have a lot of individuals that work on the farms and individuals that work in the hospitality industry. People that own businesses...We have individuals that want to have the proper channels to be able to thrive and be in a vehicle (that is) licensed and registered. I think that's the most important piece to this."

While opponents said there is no evidence that roads would be safer and that there could be potential voter fraud caused by issuing the licenses, Gomez said other states have achieved this successfully.

"This wasn't something that Massachusetts spearheaded. We're the 17th state where this has been passed. And in 16 other states, it was a bipartisan bill. We're very proud to say that question four passed," he said.

Gomez said undocumented immigrants who don't have driver's licenses can submit alternative forms of identification at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in order to apply for a driver's license starting in July 2023.

Corrected: November 9, 2022 at 10:18 PM EST
Undocumented immigrants can begin applying for licenses in Massachusetts in July 2023. This information was incorrect due to an editing error.
Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
Elizabeth Román edits daily news stories at NEPM as managing editor. She is working to expand the diversity of sources in our news coverage and is also exploring ways to create more Spanish-language news content.