by Kathryn Carley
Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts are now able to apply for a driver’s license regardless of their immigration status.
The Work and Family Mobility Act went into effect July 1, removing the requirement that residents provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S.
Franklin Soults – the senior communications strategist with the 32BJ local of the Service Employees International Union, speaking for the Driving Families Forward coalition – said other states with similar laws have seen reductions in both uninsured drivers and hit-and-run incidents.
“It’s common sense that if you allow everybody to take a road test,” said Soults, “to learn the rules of the road and to get a drivers license then the roads will be safer.”
Nineteen other states have similar laws and are backed by law enforcement agencies, which contend the policies help improve trust between police and immigrant communities.
Soults said it’s estimated more than 200,000 undocumented immigrants live in Massachusetts.
The state Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has been preparing for a massive influx of applications – up to 100,000 over the next six months.
Materials have been translated into fifteen languages and a dedicated hotline provides interpreters in more than one hundred languages.
“This law will benefit them enormously,” said Soults, “by allowing them to have the right to mobility which is such a big right that we all take for granted.”
Soults called the new law, which has been decades in the making, a victory during what he says has been a “dark time for immigrants’ rights.”
He said parents will now be able to drive their kids to school or the doctor, or drive to work without fear of deportation.