Amid GOP criticism, Mass. state senator defends decision to vote for undocumented immigrant license bill

Once opposed, Sen. Diana DiZoglio reportedly voted in favor of the bill after a redraft was made in committee sessions.

FILE - This Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 file photo, shows the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.  A six-member legislative conference committee led by Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues and House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz is working to settle disagreements between the two chambers over a $42.7 billion spending plan for the 12-month period that started July 1. Meanwhile state government is operating on a stopgap budget.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
–AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File

Receiving criticism from Republicans accusing her of reversing her stance, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio is defending her decision to vote for advancing a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

DiZoglio said earlier this week the Major City Chiefs of Police Association had asked her to back the proposal “to allow the conversation to continue through what will still be a very lengthy committee process,” The State House News Service reports.

“I voted yes in solidarity with our major city police chiefs association because the provisions in the bill would help law enforcement officers identify criminals who are here unlawfully and get them off the streets,” DiZoglio, a moderate Democrat, said in a statement provided to the news outlet.

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DiZoglio was among 14 Democrats who backed a redraft of the bill on the Joint Committee on Transportation last week — a vote that followed party lines, according to the News Service.

Her remarks clarifying the reasons for her vote follow criticism from the state Republican Party.

Senate leaders initially kept the vote private until the House co-chairman released the complete tally to the News Service.

“Senate Democrats wanted to keep the public in the dark, and Sen. DiZoglio obviously would have preferred it that way,” MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons said in a statement to the outlet. “What we have here are Democrats saying one thing and doing the other.”

Specifically, Lyons points to a statement DiZoglio said on the issue while running for re-election in the House in 2014: “I do think that we need to make sure that everybody is documented and here legally before providing state resources,” DiZoglio said, according to The Valley Patriot.

“(Democrats) can’t stand transparency and this is why,” Lyons said.

DiZoglio said she received a letter from the Haverhill and Methuen police chiefs with their support for the redrafted version of the bill.

“I did not and still do not support the previous version of the bill, as I felt the language was problematic and so did our chiefs association,” she said. “I do, however, support advancing the redraft of the bill that was worked on with and endorsed by the Mass Police Chiefs Association.”

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The committee version of the proposal would require license applicants to provide two forms of identification, with at least one containing a photograph and one that includes a date of birth, according to the publication.

Prospective license holders would have to show either a valid foreign passport or a consular identification card, the News Service reports. The other form of ID could be either a valid driver’s license from another state or territory; a birth certificate; a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employment authorization document; or a Massachusetts identification card.

Earlier versions of the bill would have left it up to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to decide what documents would be necessary, according to the outlet.

In their letter to lawmakers, Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon and Haverhill Police Chief Allen DeNaro said the preliminary support “in no way is supportive of anyone entering our country or traveling through our communities illegally,” the News Service reports.

However, they wrote that they want legislators to continue working on the bill so the proposal could ultimately “make the roadways of our Commonwealth safer.”

“Having the ability to properly license an individual will aid law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth in the identification of individuals they may encounter during motor vehicle interactions,” the letter said.

According to the News Service, Gov. Charlie Baker remains opposed to the bill.

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