Walsh: Licenses for undocumented immigrants would improve safety

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made an emphatic push on Wednesday to license undocumented immigrants who drive in Massachusetts, throwing his support behind legislation pending on Beacon Hill that faces an important deadline. Walsh penned an opinion piece for WBUR on Wednesday in which he made the case that, after years of advocating for such legislation in his time in the Legislature, this should be the year to get it passed into law.

The bill, known as the Work and Family Mobility Act, would authorize the state to issue standard driver's licenses to all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Walsh wrote that many of these immigrants own businesses in the state and already drive their children to school.

"This bill is not about where you stand on immigration. It’s a public safety bill. It’s about making our communities safer," Walsh said.

The bill (H 3012/S 2061) is pending before the Joint Committee on Transportation, which has a deadline of Wednesday to either make a recommendation or seek more time to decide. The legislation has been backed by the Major City Chiefs of Police Association, and Senate President Karen Spilka has said she believes it should pass.

Walsh said that 17 other states and jurisdictions already have such a policy, including Connecticut, where the state has seen a decrease in hit-and-run crashes and people found guilty of driving without a license since implementation.

"This is a policy that works, and is producing results," Walsh said."Our residents shouldn’t live in fear of our police officers because of their immigration status or their driving status. Our police officers need residents to trust them, so they can feel comfortable in coming forward, reporting crimes, and helping with investigations."

Supporters of the bill launched a hunger strike at the State House this week to draw attention to the legislation ahead of the committee's deadline to take action.

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