Advocates, lawmakers push bill to permit driver’s licenses for all

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  • Pioneer Valley Workers Center member Mr. Martinez speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act while Workers Center organizer Gabriella della Croce, left, translates during a press conference held at the center’s office in Northampton on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pioneer Valley Workers Center organizer Hodaliz Borrayez, right, a daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act while Gabriella della Croce, left, also with the PVWC, translates during a press conference at the organization's office in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Members of the clergy attend a press conference in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday. From left are First Churches co-pastors Sarah Buteux and Todd Weir, Janet Bush of the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence and, in the second row, far right, Peter Ives, theologian in residence at the Haydenville Congregational Church. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dalida Rocha, left, political director at Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, and Pioneer Valley Workers Center lead organizer Rose Bookbinder, right, speak in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the PVWC in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dalida Rocha, center, political director at Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, meets with Pioneer Valley Workers Center lead organizer Rose Bookbinder, left, and Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, of the 1st Hampshire District, prior to a press conference in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act at the PVWC in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The bill, currently being considered by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation, on which Sabadosa sits, would permit anyone access to obtaining a driver's license, regardless of immigration status. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pioneer Valley Workers Center member Mr. Martinez, center, speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act as PVWC organizer Gabriella della Croce, left, translates during a press conference at the center's office in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. At right is PVWC staffer and former member Hodaliz Borrayez who also spoke during the conference. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, of the 1st Hampshire District, speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The bill, currently being considered by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation, on which Sabadosa sits, would permit anyone, regardless of immigration status, to access a driver's license. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rep. Natalie Blais, of the 1st Franklin District, speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The bill, currently being considered by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation, on which Blais sits, would permit anyone, regardless of immigration status, to access a driver's license. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act to about 50 people attending a press conference at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The bill, currently being considered by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation, would permit anyone, regardless of immigration status, to access a driver's license. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference hosted by the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The bill, currently being considered by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation, would permit anyone, regardless of immigration status, to access a driver's license. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Douglas Fisher, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jeff Jones of the Western Mass Area Labor Federation speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dalida Rocha, political director at Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, speaks in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act during a press conference held at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2020 11:40:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For many, meeting basic needs and daily activities such as school, work, groceries and doctor’s appointments are daunting tasks without a car. But for numerous undocumented immigrants, a driver’s license — and these necessities — are out of reach, vastly complicating everyday life.

On Tuesday, local advocates, legislators and even the area’s chief prosecutor gathered at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in support of the Work and Family Mobility Act, which would allow people of any immigration status to obtain a standard Massachusetts driver’s license. To obtain a Massachusetts license currently, individuals must provide proof of citizenship or lawful residency.

The bill, which is currently under consideration by the state’s Joint Committee on Transportation, must be favorably moved out of committee by Feb. 5 to be considered for a vote by the Legislature.

Addressing the crowd in Spanish through a translator, Hodaliz Borrayez, an organizer with the Workers Center, highlighted driver’s licenses as necessities.

“Everyone has a right to have one, and a right to drive safely,” Borrayez said.

Immigrants and people of color face added risks when they cannot obtain a license, she said.

“Often, people in my community are pulled over unfairly,” said Borrayez, a daughter of Guatemalan immigrants. “They’re racially profiled, and then they get caught up in the immigration system.”

Some speakers noted that a driver’s license is particularly vital in rural areas like western Massachusetts, where public transportation is particularly limited.

State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa said the legislation stands out to her as one that has prompted “a mountain of letters” on her desk from children explaining why it’s important for their parents to be able to drive.

“This piece of legislation is an easy thing to support, because it means something to our community,” Sabadosa said. “It makes people’s lives better in real, tangible ways.”

In addition to protecting undocumented immigrants, the bill would also improve general roadway safety by increasing the number of people driving with a valid license.

But the bill is about “more than public safety,” said Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who called the legislation “long overdue.”

“What it does is say we are going to have everybody recognized as a human being,” Sullivan said of the bill.

The event also included remarks from Workers Center members and organizers, state Rep. Natalie Blais, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts Douglas Fisher, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459 Vice President Jeff Jones.

A representative relayed a message from Vincent Jackson, president of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, and Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper was also in attendance.

Fifteen other states, including Connecticut, Vermont and New York, have already enacted similar legislation.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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