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Marchers urge driver’s licenses for immigrants

  • Hodaliz Borrayes, center, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, joins other immigrants marching to Boston to call on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2019 12:03:39 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Immigrant activists and their supporters, including many from the Pioneer Valley, are marching on the Statehouse to demand that state lawmakers pass a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.

In a state with limited public transportation options, the marchers say that the inability of qualified non-citizens to obtain driver’s licenses puts them at increased risk for deportation. They’re pressing for the passage of the Work and Family Mobility Act, which has been stuck in committee since it was introduced at the beginning of the year.

“I’m marching because driver’s licenses are so important for my community,” said Hodaliz Borrayes, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and herself the child of Guatemalan immigrants. She said it isn’t right to keep driver’s licenses from immigrants who do work that is essential to the U.S. economy like farming and construction.

The march began on Friday in Framingham, and is being led by Movimiento Cosecha, a national immigrant advocacy organization that has also put together marches in other states where undocumented immigrants cannot receive driver’s licenses. 

“My body’s tired but my heart has the energy to fight for this,” Borrayes said Sunday after a third day of marching. 

Others from the region will be departing from Springfield on Monday morning to meet with the marchers in Boston, where they will hold a rally outside the Statehouse before meeting with lawmakers.

“As farmworkers, as restaurant workers, as construction workers, most of the folks … have to drive long distances to get to their workplaces,” said Andrea Schmid, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and one of those joining the marchers on Beacon Hill. “Not having a driver’s license, and the police pulling folks over, is one of the leading causes of family separation.”

Twelve other states and Washington, D.C., already allow immigrants without legal status to obtain driver’s licenses. Massachusetts lawmakers have failed on several occasions in the past to pass legislation on the issue, and Gov. Charlie Baker has come out in opposition to the measure. 

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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