Massachusetts approves driver's licenses to illegal migrants, as border surge taxes state resources

A former DHS official expressed concerns to Just the News that the state is on its way to enabling voting for noncitizens.

Published: July 9, 2023 6:05am

Updated: July 9, 2023 10:59am

Massachusetts has become the most recent state to allow illegal migrants to apply for a driver's license, a move that has the potential to ease some of the burden on government resources already struggling from the surge in immigration.

The "Work and Family Mobility Act" went into effect July 1 – after roughly two decades of debate on the matter in the commonwealth's Legislature.

The new law allows eligible Massachusetts residents to apply to obtain a standard driver's license, regardless of immigration status, removing a previous state requirement that residents provide proof of immigration status, according to local radio station WGBH-FM.

Democrat Gov. Maura Healey calls the law a "benefit for public safety, for our economy, and for our immigrant residents who should be able to drive to work, school, or the grocery store without fear.” 

The surge of migrants in Massachusetts – which has several so-called "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants  – is similar to that seen in other parts of the county, as part of a global migration pattern. 

In the United States, most of the migration is across the southern U.S. border, where people from economically depressed and crime-ridden Latin American nations are trying to gain entrance. 

According to a recent Boston Globe report, emergency shelters in the commonwealth have become so overwhelmed by the influx that Massachusetts, like other states, has had to rent hotel rooms. Massachusetts rented them in fiscal 2021 for 10 or fewer families, compared to 838 of them as of May 2022 – which would be an 8,280% increase.

Also, the Legislature in March approved a supplemental budget that included $85 million for the state’s emergency shelter system, with some of the additional funding also going toward reimbursing school districts for costs associated with enrolling new students from families in the shelter system.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have now enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

Critics have opposed such laws based on a range of issues – from saying only those with a Social Security number should be eligible to get a license to saying that the change is really an effort for Democrats to increase their voter rolls.

Supporters of the new law point to various problems caused by having migrants driving without a license, considering they are required to obtain auto insurance. Thus, the migrants' accidents, which could destroy a victims' vehicle or severely injury them, are not covered by insurance. 

“The goal is to get more people insured and licensed on our roads,” said state Democrat Rep. Christine Barber.

The more ambitious goal would ultimately be that giving migrants access to cars could give them greater access to jobs, which could help ease the burden they put on taxpayers. 

Lora Ries, director of the Heritage Foundation's Border Security and Immigration Center and a former Department of Homeland Security official, says issuing licenses to undocumented migrants ultimately means their immigration status becomes lost in the process, a consequence by design.

"This goes to show that it was never about road safety," she told Just the News. "This is about making it easier for illegal aliens to reside in the U.S. because a driver's license is a key document to other downstream benefits, from obtaining credit cards to even voting."

Some U.S. cities – including Burlington, Vermont, and the District of Columbia – already allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.

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