Bill passed with veto proof majority allows drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants 

For Immediate Release: 5-6-22 

Contact: Peter Jasinski | 

(BOSTON – 05/06/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility, which would allow Massachusetts residents who lack federal immigration status to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver’s license. 

Much like the comparable bills already passed in 16 other states, this legislation has broad positive impacts. States with similar legislation already signed into law have seen a reduction in hit-and-run incidents and lower insurance costs. In New Mexico, traffic fatalities declined 23% after its own law’s enactment, and California had roughly 1,200 fewer hit-and-run accidents in the two years after enacting a similar law in 2016, a decrease of 9%. 

“The issue at the center of this conversation is road safety. So many states that have already passed similar legislation have seen reductions in harmful accidents and deaths, and we are optimistic we will see a similar trend here in Massachusetts,” said Sen. John F. Keenan. “Applicants can apply for licenses through a secure, responsible process that will result in making our roads safer without increasing the risk of IDs being exploited for other uses.”  

To obtain a license, applicants would need to produce either a valid, current passport or consulate identification. Additionally, an applicant must provide documentation to show residency in Massachusetts. Those applying for these licenses would not be eligible for a Massachusetts Real ID, the license/identification issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles that is used for federal purposes, such as flying or entering federal buildings. With safeguards included in the legislation, licenses issued under the Work & Family Mobility Act would not make a person eligible to vote or to receive state benefits. 

The bill has received widespread support from members of the law enforcement community, advocacy groups, and members of the immigrant community. Its supporters include the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association, whose members lead two-thirds of police officers in Massachusetts, as well as the majority of Massachusetts’ sheriffs and district attorneys. Others who support the bill include the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which represents 750 local unions and other organizations, The Rain Immigrant Center (formerly the Irish International Immigrant Center), the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in the US, the ACLU, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. 

Based on the experiences of other states, the Commonwealth would likely see financial benefits for Massachusetts drivers by passing this bill. The Work & Family Mobility Act could favorably impact auto insurance premiums by an estimated $17.22 per driver per year. It would also generate revenue for the Commonwealth through an increase in license fees. An estimated 41,000 to 78,000 drivers would obtain new licenses within three years of the bill becoming law, possibly generating $3.1 million to $5.8 million just in initial license fees collected by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

The bill passed by the Senate is nearly identical to the version that previously passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. The legislation now moves back to the House for further consideration.