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Veto override give Hedlund a victory in car-registration law

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 1, 2012 04:26 PM

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State Senator Robert Hedlund's effort to stop illegal immigrants from registering or operating a car in Massachusetts was put into law, when the state Legislature on Monday overrode a veto by Governor Deval Patrick.

The legislation by Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, was passed as an amendment to the fiscal 2013 state budget. It require any person who registers a car in Massachusetts to hold a driver's license, a Social Security number, or other proof of legal residence.

Currently, the Registry of Motor Vehicles requires applicants only to show a name, address, proof of insurance, and birth date. If an applicant does not have a license at the time of registration, the applicant is given an an X for the registration number.

However, the ability to procure “X registrations” was not good enough for Hedlund, who said that what has resulted is dangerous drivers on Massachusetts’s roadways.

“This legislation puts an end to this ridiculous policy,” Hedlund said in a release.

Hedlund initially filed the legislation in 2005 after hearing complaints from many law enforcement officials. Although it wasn’t passed at that time, several motor vehicle accidents involving illegal aliens brought the issue more to light, Hedlund said.

According to a release from the senator’s office, in October 2009, Richard Grossi was killed when Maria Leite, an unlicensed illegal immigrant, allegedly drove through a stop sign and a blinking red light, crashing into Grossi’s car and killing him.

In February 2011, Manuel Zaruma, also an illegal immigrant, allegedly lost control of his friend’s car and spun into the opposite lane. The accident killed Andrea Agosto, who was a passenger in a passing car.

Again in August of the same year, 23-year-old Matthew J. Denice was struck and killed by a car driven by Nicolas D. GUaman.

In 2012, an illegal alien from Brazil named Auricelli Braga, 32, was charged with motor homicide following a two-car crash in Canton on June 24, which killed 64-year-old grandmother Sara Escudero.

“These tragedies occurred because a loophole exists that enables people without driver’s licenses and without any sort of training to register get behind the wheel of a car,” Hedlund said.

The current bill was initially sent back to the Legislature with an amendment from Patrick, which would require only proof of Massachusetts residence rather than proof of legal residence.

Proof could include cell phone bills, credit card bills, or other documentation.

The amendment was rejected by both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support, and the original language, offered by Hedlund, was sent back to the governor.

Patrick subsequently vetoed the entire section, referencing the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Arizona’s tough immigration law, which “underscores the importance of states treading lightly in the enforcement of federal immigration rules,” Patrick said in his veto.

“This bill appears to be aimed at using the RMV to identify and police undocumented people. This is an inappropriate purpose,” Patrick said. Furthermore, “it is hard to understand how a non-resident simply owning a vehicle in Massachusetts jeopardizes the public’s safey.”

The votes to override the veto were 134-19 in the House and 24-10 in the Senate.

“This is a victory for motorists in Massachusetts, for police officers in Massachusetts, for immigrants who are here legally, and for the families who lost loved ones because of illegal immigrant being allowed to register cars and then driving,” Hedlund said in a release. “Massachusetts is a safer place to drive now that we require you to have a license or Social Security number to register a vehicle.”

In addition to disallowing “X registration” from occurring, the bill also toughens the penalties for those caught driving without a valid license, a portion of the bil that was passed by the governor.

The minimum fine has been increased from $100 to $500 for a first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense, and up to $2,000 for a third offense.

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