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Lawmakers override Baker's veto of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts

Senate overrides Baker's veto of driver's license bill
Senate overrides Baker's veto of driver's license bill 00:31

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday joined the House in voting to override Gov. Charlie Baker's veto of a bill that would allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain state driver's licenses.

The override vote was 32-8, more than the two-thirds majority needed to trump the veto. The measure will take effect on July 1, 2023.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia already have similar laws.

The new law is a win for immigrant rights groups that have long pushed for the measure, framing it in part as a public safety measure saying that the people will have to show they can properly operate a car and get insurance in the event of an accident.

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.

"Consequently, a standard Massachusetts driver's license will no longer confirm that a person is who they say they are," he added in a letter to lawmakers last month explaining his veto,

Both chambers had initially passed the measure by margins wide enough to override a Baker veto.

Under the new law, those in the country illegally could 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.

Supporters of the bill, including Democratic Sen. President Karen Spilka, say the measure would make driving safer in Massachusetts.

"We are a nation of immigrants, and our Commonwealth continues to be profoundly and positively shaped by immigrants from all over the world," Spilka said in a written statement last month after the bill passed the Senate and before Baker's veto. "They deserve to be able to safely get to work and school, care for their families and participate in the lives of their communities."

The licenses could pose unintended problems, according to Republican Sen. Bruce Tarr, who voted to uphold Baker's veto.

"We're creating a tremendous opportunity that it could be abused for purposes for which it is not intended," he said. "It also creates an incredible threat to the integrity of the electoral process."

Baker, in his veto letter to lawmakers last month, also said the new law would significantly increases the risk that noncitizens will be registered to vote.

Supporters say those concerns are overblown in part because those using the licenses to attempt to register to vote could end up facing deportation.

Geoff Diehl, a Republican candidate for governor, said Thursday that he would support a ballot question to repeal the new law.

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