Massachusetts is the home to over 250,000 people who do not have legal status to live in the United States. Many undocumented residents arrived in the country legally but overstayed their visas or were not granted asylum and elected to stay without legal status. The Massachusetts House and Senate recently passed a law that will allow many of those 250,000 residents to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license without regard for their federal legal status. Under the new law, this 4% of the state’s population can become eligible to drive on roads in the state legally if they complete an application and pass the requisite examinations to become licensed.
The passage of the new law helps to reconcile state laws with the reality on the ground; that undocumented persons comprise a significant part of the state population, and their contributions to the economy and culture of the state demonstrate that they shouldn’t be required to live in the shadows. Under the law, a properly licensed and otherwise law-abiding resident does not need to fear criminal prosecution for driving to work or heading to the store to buy diapers.
Before the passage of the new law, many undocumented residents made the difficult choice to use fraudulent information to obtain a driver’s license for employment or other purposes. People who have fraudulently obtained a driver’s license may not be permitted to legally obtain a license now that the law has changed. Specifically, facial recognition technology used by the Registry of Motor Vehicles will prevent a person with an existing license obtained using fraudulent information from applying for a new license under their actual identity unless the person admits to fraudulently obtaining the license in the first place.