In significant shift, most Massachusetts voters support driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

In significant shift, most Massachusetts voters support driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

Massachusetts Republicans want to make roads less safe by calling for the repeal of a law that will allow undocumented residents in the commonwealth to apply for driver’s licenses and drive legally. The Work and Mobility Act was passed in June and doesn’t even go into effect for another year, but state Republican officials and candidates are backing an effort to get a repeal on November’s ballot.

Whether they can get enough signatures to even qualify for the ballot is one issue. But most Massachusetts voters also support keeping the law the place, new polling shows.

RELATED STORY: In attacking new driver’s license law, Massachusetts Republicans want to make roads less safe

“A majority of registered voters—58%—say they support preserving the new law, while 34% would vote to repeal it, according to a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll,” The Boston Globe reports. “About 8% were unsure.” The polling shows a significant shift in the law’s favor since May, when a very narrow majority of respondents opposed licenses. In that polling, 47% opposed the law and 46% supported it. 7% were unsure.

“This has happened with other national firsts, like health care, gay rights, and so on,” Suffolk University Political Research Center director David Paleologos said in the report. “Once you have a law enacted, there is a segment of the population that says, ‘I don’t want to change anything, I don’t want to repeal it.’” 

The legislature had easily overridden a veto from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who cited debunked voter fraud concerns in refusing to sign the measure into law earlier this year. Republicans will likely take up this flag again in trying to get onto the ballot in November. But the fact remains that only U.S. citizens can vote (Republican voters were actually the ones misbehaving at the ballot box” in 2020), and in order to apply for a license, immigrant applicants must provide a number of official documents, such as a foreign passport or consular identification, and a birth certificate.

”In putting the bill into law last month, Massachusetts joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia as jurisdictions that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,” The Boston Globe continued. In celebrating the legislature’s override in June, Senator Ed Markey tweeted that the victory was “a testament to the power of activists, legislators, and families across Massachusetts committed to supporting immigrants and ensuring they are treated fairly.”

One resident interviewed by The Boston Globe called the bill a matter of public safety, and that’s correct. When more drivers are licensed, it makes roads safer for all. 

“We shouldn’t prevent people from getting driver’s licenses,” Greg Wong said in the report. “People are going to drive regardless. I prefer they do it with some basic learning of how to drive in the US … from a safety perspective, that is what it comes down to.” Ty Pollock told The Boston Globe that they opposed repealing the law because “[i]t doesn’t seem right to take it away from them. It doesn’t feel like you should deny someone access the ability to get around easily.”

One self-described registered independent, who “usually votes Democrat,” said in the report that she was tsk-tsking the law because she feels “[i]t should be a requirement that you’re a citizen before you can get a driver’s license.” I’m sure plenty of undocumented residents in Massachusetts (and around the nation) would gladly apply for legal status if given the opportunity, but only Congress can create that path, and the biggest chance in years crashed and burned in flames several months ago. In the meantime, Massachusetts has taken a step to better protect the immigrants left in the lurch by federal lawmakers.


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