Mass. police chiefs group backs bill to give undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses

"All Massachusetts families need peace of mind knowing that the drivers on our highways and city streets have passed the same driving test and know the rules of our roads."

–Barry Chin/Globe Staff/file 2016

A Massachusetts police chiefs organization is putting its support behind a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses.

The Mass. Major City Chiefs of Police Association, which includes 38 members, voted by a “vast majority” this week to support the “Work and Family Mobility Act,” the State House News Service reports.

“This bill would promote trust between law enforcement and all the communities we serve and protect,” Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the association, said in a statement to the outlet. “In order for our state’s police officers to best do their jobs and remain safe while doing so, they need to be able to identify who’s behind the wheel. All Massachusetts families need peace of mind knowing that the drivers on our highways and city streets have passed the same driving test and know the rules of our roads.”

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Under the proposal, people who are “unable to provide proof of lawful presence, or who are ineligible for a social security number” may apply for a state driver’s license or identification card if they meet all other qualifications and can provide proof of their identity, date of birth, and state residency to the registrar.

The measure would also prohibit the registrar from releasing documents from those applicants unless it is required to under a subpoena in a criminal matter or court order, or a “state or federal statute mandating disclosure,” the bill says.

“Possession of a valid Massachusetts license or a Massachusetts identification card shall not be used as evidence of the holder’s citizenship, nationality or immigration status, or as the sole basis for an investigation, citation, arrest, prosecution or detention of the holder by a law enforcement agency,” the bill says.

The licenses and identification cards, however, will not comply with the federal “Real ID” standards.

The bill has kicked around the state Legislature for well over a decade. The latest filing, sponsored by state Sen. Brendan Crighton, is currently before the Transportation Committee, according to the news service.

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