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Baker vetoes immigrant license access bill

This article is more than 1 year old.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday vetoed a bill making immigrants without legal status eligible to seek state-issued driver's licenses, saying the Registry of Motor Vehicles, an agency that he oversees, doesn't have the ability to verify the identities of potential applicants.

Following years of advocacy for the bill, House and Senate Democrats on Thursday enacted the legislation, which supporters say will make the roads safer by granting access to licenses for many undocumented immigrants who are already living throughout the state.

Republican opposition to the bill was steady throughout its journey through the Legislature, and officeholders and candidates at the GOP convention last weekend in Springfield sporadically and pointedly expressed their opposition to the proposal.

In his veto message, Baker said the legislation "significantly increases the risk that noncitizens will be registered to vote," a possibility that bill supporters have refuted. The governor said the bill "restricts the Registry's ability to share citizenship information with those entities responsible for ensuring that only citizens register for and vote in our elections."

The bill cleared both branches with more than enough support to override Baker's veto.

"Allowing parents to drive their kids to school, take them to doctor's appointments or be in charge of carpooling to take their kids to soccer, all without the concern they may be separated if they are pulled over, will allow children of undocumented immigrants to breathe and have a sigh of relief," bill supporter Sen. Adam Gomez, a Springfield Democrat, said earlier this month.

It will be up to the House to initiate a veto override, with a two-thirds vote required in each branch to make the bill law. Ana Vivas, a spokeswoman for Speaker Ron Mariano, said the House plans to take its override vote on June 8.

“We are deeply disappointed that Governor Baker has vetoed the Work and Family Mobility Act," Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, said in a statement. "The policy would not only make our communities safer, but benefit our economy and bolster trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. We hope that the legislature will waste no time in overriding the Governor’s veto.”

The House voted 118-36 Thursday to accept the conference committee report on the bill; the Senate vote was 32-8.

Under the bill (H 4805), expanded access to standard driver's licenses would begin on July 1, 2023. Applicants under the bill would need to provide proof of their identity, date of birth and residency in Massachusetts.

With additional reporting from WBUR's Simón Rios


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