BOSTON (AP) — A bill that would allow immigrants from across the country to illegally obtain state driver’s licenses in Massachusetts was approved by the Massachusetts House on Wednesday despite Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto.
The 119-36 vote means the bill now heads to the Massachusetts Senate, which could also vote to override Baker’s veto as early as Thursday.
If the Senate can muster the necessary two-thirds majority in favor of the proposal, as expected, the bill will become law over Baker’s objections. Democrats have overwhelming majorities in both chambers.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia already have similar laws.
Baker has long opposed the idea of allowing people in the country to obtain driver’s licenses illegally, saying it would require the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the opportunity to verify their identity.
“As a result, a standard Massachusetts driver’s license will no longer confirm that a person is who they claim to be,” he added in a letter to lawmakers last month explaining his veto.
Both houses initially passed the measure with margins wide enough to override a Baker veto.
According to the proposal, those who are in the country illegally could apply for a driver’s license if they can provide the Motor Vehicle Registry with a foreign passport or consular identification document.
Individuals would also need to provide one of five additional documents: a driver’s license from another US state or territory; a birth certificate; a foreign national identity card; a foreign driving licence; or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any US state or territory.
Supporters of the bill, including Democratic Senator Karen Spilka, say the measure would make driving safer in Massachusetts by requiring immigrants to show they can drive a car properly and have obtained insurance necessary in the event of an accident.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and our Commonwealth continues to be deeply and positively shaped by immigrants from around the world,” Spilka said in a written statement last month after the bill passed the Senate and before Baker’s veto. “They deserve to be able to get to work and school safely, to take care of their families and to participate in the life of their community. »
Baker said the bill would also restrict the registry’s ability to share citizenship information with entities tasked with ensuring that only citizens register and vote in elections.
“This bill significantly increases the risk of non-citizens being registered to vote,” he added.
If approved by the Senate, the proposal would go into effect July 1, 2023.