BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Dozens of groups headed to Beacon Hill Wednesday to urge state lawmakers to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. The move would put Massachusetts at odds with federal law.
Proponents of the bill argue the legislation will make drivers safer on the roadways and even boost state coffers because people would be paying for driver's training, licenses and insurance.
Opponents of the bill say it would violate federal laws, and that it would just sanction the actions of those who have already broken the law by being here illegally.
Advocates held a rally at the State House before a scheduled hearing on the bill Wednesday. During the hearing people on both sides delivered testimony, including Celia Blue, the state's registrar of motor vehicles. She testified that the Patrick administration supports the bill.
"The Patrick administration supports a safe driving bill that increases safety and opportunities for all of our residents and visitors and we look forward to working with you on the specific language of the bill," Blue said.
Fitchburg Police Sergeant Glenn Fossa said that the bill is better than nothing.
"This is better than what we have, which is nothing, and if anecdotally there have been folks who have been stopped and they're handed a piece of paper, there's no picture, there's no way of identifying that individual is truly that person who is driving on the road and a picture ID, a typical type of a license does provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to regulate traffic," Fossa said.
Jessica Vaughan from the Center for Immigration Studies said, "This is a slap in the face to people who have taken the trouble and gone about coming to the United States in the right way."
This particular bill does have language that says the licenses would be made "visibly distinct" meaning you're not supposed to be able to use them to enter a federal building, or board a plane, they're strictly for driving.
How different will they look? The bill says that would be up to the registrar of motor vehicles. The National Immigration Law Center says 11 states, including two New England states, Connecticut and Vermont, have enacted laws granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.