7 immigrants improperly denied drivers license renewals 

RMV says it is addressing problem with branch staff 

AN IMMIGRANT ADVOCACY GROUP says seven people have improperly been denied driver’s license renewals as a result of their immigration status.  

Centro Presente says seven individuals with Temporary Protected Status were denied renewals by the Revere office of the Registry of Motor Vehicles in the past two weeks. A Registry spokeswoman said the agency has taken steps to address the problem and will work with Centro Presente to resolve any customer-specific issues. 

Temporary Protected Status is intended for immigrants unable to return to their home countries due to natural disasters, civil unrest, and other circumstances. The Trump administration is trying to end the program, but termination has been delayed by a series of lawsuits, including one by Centro Presente. While the cases work their way through the courts, immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan have been granted extensions through January 2021.  

Centro Presente said the seven individuals were seeking license renewals and may have had expired documentation for their Temporary Protected Status. Under the terms of the pending court actions, even expired documentation is supposed to be valid, Centro Presente said. 

“We hope that this is just a case of poor instruction of Revere RMV staff and demand that the Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles immediately intervene to correct the situation,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente. 

Judith Reardon Riley, a spokeswoman for the Registry, indicated the problem is being resolved.  

“The Registry of Motor Vehicles has taken proper steps to support different types of licensing credentials, including individuals who have Temporary Protected Status, and will continue to reinforce those procedures in all branches as new TPS dates take effect,” she said in an email. 

The Registry’s website doesn’t spell out what documents are needed for TPS recipients to renew their licenses. “TPS customers should come to the RMV to begin the application process at least 20 days before expiration of their license or ID card,” the site says, without noting that people with expired licenses or TPS identification cards can still renew. Despite the lack of information on the website, the seven people brought all the required documentation to the Revere Registry office but were denied anyway.  

“What is happening with the renewal of driver’s licenses is just one of many issues TPS recipients are facing despite the continued protection based on the Ramos v Nielsen case,” said José Palma, co-founder of the Massachusetts TPS Committee, in reference to a federal case in California that enjoined the government from terminating the humanitarian status for the duration of the lawsuit. 

Jose Palma, co-founder of the Massachusetts TPS Committee, speaks with legislators and attorneys on a World Refugee Day discussion at the Massachusetts State House. (Photo by Sarah Betancourt)

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“We hope the RMV will train its personnel to avoid the harm they are causing to TPS recipients,” he said. 

This is not the first time there’s been a communication problem at the Registry over TPS. In January, CommonWealth reported that the Registry, in response to a drivers license change initiated by the federal government, had changed its procedures for people with TPS renewing and applying for commercial driver’s licenses. The change in procedures wasn’t communicated to the public or staff, so many TPS applicants continued to be denied licenses.