Massachusetts Committee Defeats Illegal Alien Driver's License Bill

Federation for Immigration Reform
News article

Legislation that would make illegal aliens eligible to receive driver's licenses and learner's permits in Massachusetts failed this session because of its lack of support among constituents and within the Massachusetts legislature. Last week, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation voted to send House Bill ("H.B.") 3285 to study, effectively killing consideration of the legislation this session. (Boston Globe, Jun. 24, 2014).

H.B. 3285 would have removed the provision in Massachusetts law that requires an applicant to provide a Social Security Number for proof of identity in order to receive a driver's license or learner's permit. (H.B. 3285) The bill would have also prohibited the registrar of the Department of Motor Vehicles from denying a driver's license or learner's permit to any person who fails to provide evidence of immigration status. (Id.)

Massachusetts Representative Marc Lombardo, who represents the 22nd Middlesex District, opposed H.B. 3285 because he believes the legislation would create a "magnet" by encouraging illegal aliens to move to Massachusetts, and serve as a shield against the enforcement of federal law. (MassLive, Mar. 11, 2014) "To give identification to those who are illegally here allows our ID to essentially mean nothing. It becomes a form of ID that allows those that are illegally here to hide in society with those who are legally here," said Representative Lombardo. (Id.)

Massachusetts Senator Richard Moore, who represents the Worcester and Norfolk District, also opposed H.B. 3285. "I don't think it will make the roads any safer," Senator Moore said. "The individuals who are here violated the law to be here and remain here and I don't see how granting them licenses guarantees they'll obey traffic laws any better than they do immigration laws." (Telegram, Mar. 16, 2014) Senator Moore further noted, "Illegal immigration needs to addressed — not changing our laws at the state level to make someone who is here illegally, entitled to a privilege. Driving is a privilege." (Id.)

Legislators were not the only true immigration reformers to speak out against the bill. H.B. 3285 faced strong opposition during its hearing in March in the Joint Committee on Transportation by community leaders. Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson was among those who testified against H.B. 3285. He said the proposal would reward people who violated federal immigration laws and warned that granting licenses would not mean safer roads. (Boston Globe, Mar. 6, 2014) "We are a country of laws," Hodgson told the committee. (Id.) "If we begin to tell people that we'll make exceptions for any group, then we have to honestly ask ourselves, do the laws really matter?" (Id.)

Massachusetts Senator Patricia Jehlen, a sponsor of H.B. 3285, advocated on behalf of the measure, arguing that immigration status should not be a bar to getting a driver's license or learner's permit. (WWLP, Jun. 23, 2014) "I'd rather everybody or more people on the roads who are driving have taken the test and having insurance." (Id.) However, there is little evidence to suggest illegal aliens who fail the driving test will not drive, since many claim to drive unlicensed already. Similarly, data from New Mexico, who has issued driver's licenses to illegal aliens since 2003, suggests that granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens would in fact increase the rate of uninsured drivers, not reduce it. New Mexico is now home to the nation's second highest percentage of uninsured drivers. (Insurance Research Council, 2011)

The defeat of H.B. 3285 marks a victory for true immigration reform. So far in 2014, eleven states have considered legislation that would enable illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses and identification cards, and none have passed.