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Opinion

Crighton wheels out a common-sense idea

An estimated 185,000 undocumented immigrants live in Massachusetts and state Sen. Brendan Crighton said the state can boost their economic contribution by allowing them to obtain driver’s licenses.

Crighton is co-sponsoring the Work and Family Mobility Act, and the bill’s name concisely defines why licensing undocumented immigrants makes sense.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and conferring it on someone whose transportation options are limited expands their opportunities and their ability to be economic contributors. People who can legally drive can earn a good living and do more to support their family. It makes perfect common sense.

“Fourteen other states have passed this, including Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., and the sky hasn’t fallen. It’s not a radical idea.

Citizenship has nothing to do with a person’s ability to safely drive,” Crighton told The Daily Item.

Again, common sense.

The Lynn Democrat testified in favor of the proposed legislation last Wednesday at a State House hearing attended by more than 400 people, supporters as well as opponents. The bill’s supporters count 85 out of 200

fellow Massachusetts House and Senate colleagues in favor of licensing undocumented immigrants.

But that number may fall short of the two-thirds required to override the gubernatorial veto that is destined to fall on the Work and Family Mobility Act unless Gov. Charlie Baker changes his mind about the bill.

A State House News Service transcript of Baker’s remarks to reporters last week summarized his views on the legislation.

“My problem with giving licenses to people who are undocumented is just that. There’s no documentation to back up the fact that they are who they say they are and a driver’s license is a passport to a lot of things, and I think our view is the law we passed, which basically says as long as you have lawful presence dictated by the federal government you can get a driver’s license in Mass, that’s the policy we support,” Baker said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his office.

State Rep. Bradley Jones, who represents Lynnfield in the House, opposes the legislation, dubbing it “a wrong policy.”

“It’s rewarding people who are here illegally,” Jones told the Item.

But the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said in a report released hours before last Wednesday’s legislative hearing that undocumented immigrants already contribute about $184.6 million in Massachusetts state and local taxes. The report concludes that having a license could increase many immigrants’ earning power and their tax contributions.

Crighton pointed out the legislation requires undocumented immigrants to provide proof of identity and residency in applying for a standard driver’s license.

We applaud Crighton for his common-sense proposal to give a significant number of Massachusetts residents an opportunity to increase their economic contribution.

The Work and Family Mobility Act gives almost 200,000 immigrants an opportunity to drive legally in Massachusetts and take on the responsibilities that come with driving legally, including obtaining insurance

and driving a properly registered and inspected vehicle. 

Some of those immigrants live in Crighton’s home city and he has drafted a sensible proposal to give them a tool to help them contribute to their community, their state and their country.

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