Road safety

Road safety or migrant rights? – Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ballot question 4 asks whether the state should repeal a new law allowing noncitizens to obtain driver’s licenses

Cade Belisle / Daily College (2014)

As Election Day approaches, voters in Massachusetts are considering Question 4, which asks whether the state should repeal a new law allowing noncitizens to obtain driver’s licenses. Voting ‘yes’ confirms the law, while voting ‘no’ reverses the law.

Immigrant activist groups have advocated for expanding Massachusetts driver’s license eligibility for decades. Their efforts resulted in the Occupational and Family Mobility Act, a bill allowing licensing for undocumented residents. The state legislature passed the bill on June 9, overriding Governor Charlie Baker’s veto on the bill.

“This bill is something that will help working families be able to get to work and take responsibility,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio, who voted in favor of the proposal. “We need to make sure all working families can get to work, get to their medical appointments, and be able to get an education and get the resources they need.”

On June 13, opponents of the law called for a referendum to overturn the legislation, forming the Fair and Secure Massachusetts Committee. The group certified the number of signatures needed to appear on the ballot in early September, creating the fourth and final question on the statewide ballot.

“Giving driver’s licenses to people who live here without legal status fundamentally undermines the rule of law in our country and would make our state a magnet for such behavior,” wrote Maureen Maloney, chair of the Fair and Secure Massachusetts, in a letter. to the Berkshire Eagle. “It’s unfair and insulting to the millions of legal immigrants who have taken the time and effort to go through the proper channels to come here.”

Maloney raised the sticking point on Question 4, asking whether expanding access to driver’s licenses is a matter of public safety or immigrant rights. State Senator Brendan Crighton supports the former.

“It has nothing to do with immigration,” Crighton said during a GBH debate on the 4. Commonwealth issue.

States that have passed similar legislation have seen a drop in hit-and-run crashes. Razvan Sibii, a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts, said defining Question 4 as a road safety measure was a “strategic choice”.

“Someone decided that empathy for undocumented immigrants might not necessarily win, whereas road safety, which concerns us all, might,” Sibii said. “If you can make people feel like it affects them directly, then yes, of course it’s more likely to make them care.”

Shel Horowitz, a member of Western Massachusetts Jewish Activists for Immigration, identified his Jewish heritage as a personal connection to Question 4.

“We had this thing called the Holocaust, where many people were persecuted and killed for the quote-unquote crime of being Jewish,” Horowitz said. “So we think it gives us a particular urgency to confront the oppressions that we see.”

Sibii noted that Question 4 will not be universally liked by immigrants.

“Documented immigrants must be convinced that undocumented immigrants must have rights,” Sibii said. “There’s a strong undercurrent among documented immigrants that says, ‘Well, they should do it legally like I did. “”

“I grew up in an immigrant family, so I know that history pretty well,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “This is a debate that should be done in the context of federal immigration reform.”

Craney is concerned that the Motor Vehicle Registry is not equipped to handle the foreign documents needed to verify the identity of non-nationals.

“Are we asking the motor vehicle registry to be able to process between 150 and 250,000 illegal immigrants in our state so they can get driver’s licenses?” Craney asked. “Common sense tells you that our RMV is not capable of this, nor should they be asked to do so.”

“We’re kind of putting the cart before the horse because our heads of state want more immigration, in this case, illegal immigration,” Craney said.

Advocates on both sides of the issue are concerned that Question 4 has limited name recognition. When Fair and Secure Massachusetts certified enough signatures to appear on the ballot, it was too late to include that question in the Secretary of State’s Red Voter’s Guide, and the question appears on the back or on the second ballot page.

“A significant number might not actually flip the page,” Sibii said. “Those things about positioning on the ballot are always a concern.”

“I find these red books to be very helpful in making your point,” Craney said. “But you know voters, they have a way of finding that information on their own.”

Early voting takes place now and ends on November 4. Election day is November 8. Find your voting location at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/WhereDoIVote.

Sophie Hauck can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SophieBHauck.