Driver's Licenses: An Equity Issue and a Public Safety Issue

Chairman Boncore, Chairman Straus, and members of the Joint Committee on Transportation, my name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am pleased to offer testimony. Progressive Massachusetts would like to go on record in support of S.2061 / H.3012: An Act relative to work and family mobility.

The Work and Family Mobility Act would enable all qualified state residents to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license, regardless of immigration status, to increase road and public safety and allow for greater mobility across our Commonwealth.  

Immigrants are a core part of the fabric of our community, but regressive laws still on the books hinder their ability to fully participate. Notably, our state still prevents undocumented residents from obtaining driver’s licenses, hindering their ability to work and to engage in the community. 

This is bad for our economy and bad for public safety. In 2016, undocumented immigrants contributed $8.8 billion to the Massachusetts economy, and not being able to obtain a driver’s license prevents their full participation in the economy, especially as our underfunded public transit system too often provides irregular hours and insufficient reach.

Moreover, this situation is bad for public safety. All drivers on the road should have the appropriate training that comes with a license: that makes everyone -- fellow drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians -- safer. 

But a true definition of public safety is much broader. In the first two years of the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests of people with no criminal convictions more than tripled, fueled by a fivefold increase in arrests of immigrants who’ve been charged with an offense but not yet convicted. The most common charges are traffic offenses. Massachusetts can and should reduce our complicity with a federal immigration agenda out of step with our values and priorities as a Commonwealth. 

Other states have realized that changing the law so that immigration status is no longer a barrier to obtaining a license is common-sense policy. Fourteen states have already passed such laws, including our neighbors in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. It’s past time that we do too. We urge a prompt favorable report for S.2061 / H.3012: An Act relative to work and family mobility.


Jonathan Cohn

Chair, Issues Committee

Progressive Massachusetts 

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