Baker vetoes driver’s license bill for undocumented immigrants
Cites concerns about identification, voting
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed immigrants without legal status to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license, a day after the bill reached his desk.
In his veto letter, Baker cited concerns about identification and about unintentionally giving non-citizens the ability to vote.
“I cannot sign this legislation because it requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity,” two-term Republican governor wrote.
Baker had previously voiced misgivings about the bill, so his veto was not entirely unexpected. The bill’s prospects for being enacted, however, remain good, with the Democratic-dominated House and Senate both passing the measure by margins great enough to override Baker’s veto.
“Consequently, a standard Massachusetts driver’s license will no longer confirm that a person is who they say they are,” Baker wrote.
Baker said he does not like that under the bill, there would be no distinction between a state driver’s license issued to a person who is lawfully present in the US and one who is not. (A REAL ID, which has additional federal requirements, could only be issued to someone in the US legally, but under the bill, a standard state license could be issued to both legal and non-legal residents.)
The bill would also restrict the RMV from sharing information about citizenship with election officials – although it would direct the secretary of state to develop rules to ensure there is no improper voting registration. Baker said that protection is insufficient. “This bill significantly increases the risk that noncitizens will be registered to vote,” Baker wrote.
The bill’s advocates say there are already many people who have licenses but cannot vote, like Green Card holders. “There are many non-citizens who are legally able to drive here that do not vote or register to vote,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton, Senate chair of the Transportation Committee, in an interview before the bill passed.
Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said the group is “deeply disappointed” by Baker’s veto. “The policy would not only make our communities safer, but benefit our economy and bolster trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities,” Sweet said in a statement. “We hope that the legislature will waste no time in overriding the Governor’s veto.The bill has generally split the Legislature along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it. The House passed the final version of the bill by a 118-36 vote, and the Senate passed it 32-8. Both votes exceed the two-thirds margin needed to override the governor’s veto.
The bill will now return to the Legislature, where is likely lawmakers will vote to override Baker’s veto and pass it into law.