Northampton (WWLP) – Lawmakers have introduced a bill that would let those living in Massachusetts illegally obtain the licenses.
Supporters of a bill that would make driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants packed the Pioneer Workers Center in Northampton Tuesday. The bill is currently being considered by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.
Fourteen states, including Connecticut and Vermont, have laws in place allowing all residents to acquire some type of license or permit regardless of immigration status. Supporters said it will not only make roads safer for everyone but allow undocumented immigrants the independence they want.
“It just gives people who are undocumented a little bit of decency that they are able to drive in the Commonwealth legally and safely, Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa for the 1st Hampshire District said. “They will be tested and insured and this adds no additional cost to the Commonwealth.”
There are an estimated 185,000 undocumented immigrants in the state, many of who already drive without a license.
Although critics argue that those in the country illegally aren’t entitled to the benefit of a driver’s license, Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper has endorsed the bill, saying it would help her officers during traffic stops.
“In my own experience in the past when I pulled over drivers, we had a language barrier,” Kasper said. “I asked them for identification and they hand me something that is in another language. That’s not practical for our officers on the street. What are they supposed to do, is it a license, is it not a license. And in an outcome of that may be in some circumstances, they could get arrested.”
It’s estimated that passing the legislation would likely generate $6 million in state revenue over the first three years. One hundred and thirty-five western Massachusetts businesses have endorsed the bill already.
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