A just-passed state law allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses in Massachusetts is now the subject of a repeal effort.
Critics, including members of the Massachusetts Republican Party, are supporting the push to put the repeal question before voters on the November ballot. Activists filed initial paperwork with the secretary of the commonwealth’s office on Wednesday.
They now face the task of collecting more than 40,120 certified voter signatures and submitting them to local election officials by Aug. 24 and then delivering them to the state by Sept. 7 — the 90th day after lawmakers voted to override a veto of the bill by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
One supporter of the repeal is Geoff Diehl, a Republican candidate for governor.
“It’s not what the people of Massachusetts want,” Diehl said in a statement after lawmakers overrode Baker’s veto. “I will not sit by idly and watch the consequences of this bill take away the safety and democratic rights of Massachusetts residents.”
Maureen Maloney, whose son Matthew Denice was killed in 2011 after being struck and dragged by a driver in the country illegally is also part of the repeal effort.
In 2014, a judge sentenced Nicolas Dutan Guaman on charges including vehicular manslaughter in the August 2011 death. Prosecutors said Guaman was drunk and driving without a license when he hit Denice’s motorcycle.
Both Democratic candidates for governor — state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Attorney General Maura Healey — support the law. Wrentham business owner Chris Doughty, who is also running for governor as a Republican, opposes the law.
The new law is a win for immigrant rights groups that have long pushed for the measure. They have framed the law in part as a public safety measure saying that those seeking licenses will have to show they can properly operate a car and get insurance in the event of an accident.
“By bringing all Massachusetts drivers under the same licensing standards, regardless of immigration status, this legislation ensures that everyone on our roads is identifiable, insured, and well versed in the rules of the road,” Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano said earlier this week.
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
Baker has opposed the idea of allowing those in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses, saying it would require the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity.
With the changes, Baker said, a standard Massachusetts driver’s license would no longer confirm that a person is who they say they are.
Under the new law, those in the country illegally will be able to apply for a driver’s license if they can provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles with a foreign passport or consular identification document.
They will also have to provide one of five additional documents: a driver’s license from another U.S. state or territory; a birth certificate; a foreign national identification card; a foreign driver’s license; or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state or territory.
Baker, in his veto letter to lawmakers last month, also said the new law would significantly increase the risk that non-citizens will be registered to vote.
The new law takes effect July 1, 2023.
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