BOSTON (WBZNewsRadio) - A bill allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses has passed in the first-ever vote in the House, 120-36. The bill still requires approval by the Massachusetts Senate, before heading to the desk of Governor Charlie Baker.
If the bill becomes law, more than 200,000 people living in Massachusetts without legal status, would be able to apply.
The bill requires individuals provide documentation in order to obtain a license, including proof of their identity, residency in the state and their date of birth. Those rules would apply to people who do not have proof they are in the country legally. Anyone seeking a license must provide at least two documents: The first must either be a valid foreign passport or a valid unexpired consular identification. A second kind of identification could be an unexpired driver's license from any US state or territory, a birth certificate, a valid foreign national identification card, foreign driver's license, or a marriage certification issued in the state of Massachusetts. One of those documents must contain a photograph.
Undocumented immigrants in 16 other states, including New York, Connecticut and Vermont, are already able to get a driver's license.
The licenses would not become available until July 1, 2023.
Immigration activists have long fought for the measure, emphasizing it would help improve public safety, by requiring everyone on the road prove they are capable of operating a vehicle and can obtain the needed insurances in the event of an accident.
Critics of the bill have pointed out that while some police chiefs have endorsed the bill, others have not. And have said the bill would encourage more people to enter the country illegally.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where it has a supporter in President Karen Spilka.
In a statement just after the House vote, Spilka did not commit to bringing the bill to the Senate floor but said she "very much look[s] forward to having further discussions with our membership on this issue."
WBZ's Chris Fama (@CFamaWBZ) reports