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80 Percent in State Drive to Work: How Are Undocumented Getting There?

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A measure is pending in the Commonwealth that would increase access to a driver's licenses for all qualified residents without regard to immigration status. Credit: Mike Clifford
A measure is pending in the Commonwealth that would increase access to a driver's licenses for all qualified residents without regard to immigration status. Credit: Mike Clifford
September 30, 2015

BOSTON - Eleven states and the District of Columbia allow qualified residents to obtain a driver's license regardless of their immigration status - and a measure is pending at the state House to allow the Commonwealth to join that group.

Eighty percent of state residents rely on a vehicle to get to work, according to a new Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center report.

Cristina Aguilera, director of organizing for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said she believes all Commonwealth drivers will be a whole lot safer when everybody has a chance to learn the rules of the road.

"When people are driving without a license, they don't go through the process of training, they might not have insurance," she said. "If they're not from this country, they don't know the rules of driving, and the process of getting a driver's license makes all of us safer."

According to some opponents of the measure, it would reward illegal behavior by granting a privilege to people who are not here legally. Aguilera said support is growing with several mayors and chiefs of police now saying the measure would make all drivers on Massachusetts roads a lot safer.

The report showed that the average commute time for foreign-born immigrants living in Massachusetts is about half an hour, higher than the national average. Aguilera said undocumented people have to get to work and get their kids to school as well as to doctors' visits and the hospital.

"Imagine yourself having to live in this state without access to a driver's license and moving to the suburbs, having children," she said. "For me as a mother of two, I can't imagine not being able to have access to a car - multiple emergencies that I've had with my kids."

Aguilera said a petition in support of the measure has attracted more than 9,000 signatures at change.org.

The report is online at massbudget.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA