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Regional News

Advocates push for Mass. bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses

Phil Korman, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, at an online press conference.
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Phil Korman, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, at an online press conference.

A group of advocates in Massachusetts is pushing for a bill called the Work and Family Mobility Act that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.

Lynnette Watkins, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, said something as simple as an ID can give anyone access to medical care.

“Improving access to medical care is crucial,” Watkins said. “It's crucial for families such as being able to take a child to see a primary care doctor or pediatrician or an emergency, such as emergency facilities or an urgent care.”

Phil Korman of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture said undocumented farm workers need better options to get to farms.

"For many farm workers who are immigrants, they commute 20 to 30 miles to get to the farms," Korman said. " Public transportation is not an option here in western Mass., since bus routes are infrequent and slow in rural areas. So farm workers crowd into a shared vehicle or minivan."

The bill still needs to go through the Transportation Committee for review, but the deadline for that review has now been delayed until March.

The committee favorably reported a version of the legislation with a 14-4 party-line vote last session, but it died without action in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Gov. Charlie Baker opposes the proposal, while Senate President Karen Spilka has expressed support.

Sixteen other states and Washington, D.C., already have laws on the books allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire some form of a driver's license, bill supporters said Tuesday.

This report includes information from State House News Service.

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