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Political committee targets new drivers license law

Group opposed to law allowing undocumented to drive in Mass.

Sarah Betancourt

A political committee began the process to repeal a new law to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, just four days after legislators voted to make Massachusetts the 17th state to do that.

Maureen Maloney and Kevin Dube filed paperwork with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance on Monday to create the Fair And Secure Massachusetts committee, intending to “repeal drivers licenses for illegal aliens,” according to one of the forms. The intention would be to put the question to voters on the November 2022 ballot.

Advocates and lawmakers held a “ceremonial bill signing” to mark the new law on Monday afternoon — which will be going into effect without the signature of Gov. Charlie Baker. House Speaker Ron Mariano, Senate President Karen Spilka, bill sponsors Reps. Christine Barber and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and Sens. Brendan Crighton and Adam Gomez attended, along with advocates.

The new law will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a standard state driver’s license beginning July 1, 2023. It prohibits the Registry of Motor Vehicles from asking about or keeping documents related to immigration status.

Nobody has filed paperwork for a referendum yet, according to Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office, but the group is expected to soon. The deadline to file would be July 9, or within 30 days of the Senate overriding Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto.

If the committee collects 40,120 certified signatures by Aug. 24 for a local election official to certify, and then file with the Secretary of State’s office by Sept. 7, the question can go on the November 2022 ballot.

Maloney’s son was killed in 2011 by a drunk driver who did not have legal authorization to live in the United States.

“I do not think that we should be rewarding people for being in the country illegally,” Maloney said in a phone interview. “I think the RMV [Registry of Motor Vehicles] is not equipped to properly vet people coming to the United States from over 100 different countries and being able to reliably decipher their documentation that, first of all, in the different language and second of all, for validity.”

To apply for a driver’s license, immigrants will have to show two documents proving their date of birth and identity, like an unexpired foreign passport, consular identification document or certified copy of a birth certificate.

Asked about whether methods used by consular offices to verify documents aren’t rigorous enough, Maloney said she wasn’t sure and would have to “look into that further.”

Consular identification cards are issued by some countries who have citizens living in other countries, and can be used for voting in that foreign country, or for identification.

Countries that have consular offices each have their own varied requirements to get an identification card. For instance, in Colombia, there’s a document showing the individual’s blood type, and in Guinea, applicants need two documents including an unexpired passport, photo ID and/or birth certificate.

Proponents of the Work and Family Mobility Act have long said it will improve road safety and assuage immigrants’ worries of being revealed as undocumented and face deportation because of a routine traffic stop or accident. There about 250,000 undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts, according to a 2016 report from the American Immigration Council.

Connecticut saw a reduction of hit-and run crashes, and a decline in the number of people found guilty of unlicensed driving, a 2019 investigation by the GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting found.

“The MIRA Coalition firmly opposes any and all efforts to repeal the Work and Family Mobility Act,” said Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, in a call with GBH.

She said the benefits of allowing individuals to apply for a driver’s license regardless of immigration status will become “quickly apparent.” It will also require “all drivers to take a driving test and enroll in auto insurance,” which will benefit the state financially.

“It will also make it possible for immigrants and refugees to go about their lives with more peace of mind,” Sweet said.

A Boston Globe-Suffolk University poll of 800 Massachusetts residents published in the spring showed residents were divided on the issue. Forty-seven percent said they opposed the driver’s license bill, and 46 percent supported it, with 7 percent unsure.

Maloney said she believes it’s “absolutely possible” to collect the signatures necessary to get on the ballot in November. She said she wants to leave the measure “up to the voters,” citing the Globe-Suffolk University poll.

Geoff Diehl, a gubernatorial candidate for the state Republican Party, told media in a statement last week, “this is a bad bill,” and said he would support efforts to overturn in a ballot initiative. Both Democratic candidates, Maura Healey and Sonia Chang-Díaz, have voiced their support for the veto override.

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual reporter for GBH News.