Politics

Coakley OK with licenses for undocumented immigrants

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley said this week she would create a new position in the governor’s office to pave the way for drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, endorsing a concept she has opposed in the past.

Coakley said, if elected, she would appoint a “director of immigration and safety,” who would work with her and with advocacy groups “on how do we pave the way for safe driving, making sure that people can have licenses and have the proper registration.”

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She made the comments on Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, a group that supports drivers’ licenses for people who are in the country illegally.

Coakley’s remarks signaled a shift. She has previously opposed drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, but more recently said she was “open” to issuing them.

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“In the past, I have been opposed to that, but it is clear to me that people who need to get to work, people who have medical emergencies, particularly because we have no national solution to pathways to immigration for people and families who have been here paying taxes, working hard,” she said at the forum, which was held at Roxbury Community College. “We clearly have to find a way to do that.”

In the past, Coakley’s reluctance to fully embrace licenses for undocumented immigrants has come under attack from Steve Grossman and Don Berwick, the other two Democrats running for governor, who have said they support such licenses.

On Friday, Coakley’s campaign released a statetement seeking to clarify her position on the issue. The statement said the new direction of immigration would work on a range of issues, including better education for immigrants and “potential access to drivers’ licenses.”

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“Throughout her entire campaign for governor, she has said she is open to working with members of the community and law enforcement to find common-sense solutions to these challenges,” the statement said.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.
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