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Immigration, driver’s licenses entwined in tangled Question 4

A view of the Massachusetts State House and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge behind it.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Clear the air and ensure an informed vote on this issue

Re “On ballot: divisive immigration policy” (Metro, Oct. 7): Should people without legal immigration status be allowed to get a driver’s license? That is a complex question on the November ballot — a “values-focused” question, according to an analyst of the issue cited in the Globe article — but with the election rapidly approaching, there has not been much information explaining its values-focused complexity.

According to the article, because the ballot referendum “qualified for the ballot too late,” an explanation of the issue was not included in an informational pamphlet election officials mailed to voters. Ignoring the question of how a qualified ballot question could be too late to be included in that material, the fact is voters should have a full understanding of the implications of the question, because it affects not just those without legal immigration status but also law enforcement, insurers, other drivers for “technical” reasons, and everyone else as a value judgment. (Editor’s note: A spokeswoman for Secretary of State William F. Galvin has since told the Globe that Galvin’s office will print a supplement regarding Question 4 in all languages in which ballots are printed, which the office said would be available in all in-person voting locations.)

In June, the Legislature enacted a law approving the issuance of driver’s licenses in these cases (which I support), but even then a full debate about its merits and negative consequences was absent. This is a good issue, and the right time, for an informed vote.


Jim Miara


Vote no: Public safety is at risk

Voters next month will be asked to decide whether to repeal a law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, in the referendum known as Question 4.

One of the main arguments in favor of this law is that it will improve public safety. However, as someone who served and protected the community for more than 40 years in law enforcement, rising through the ranks from a seasonal patrol officer to deputy chief of police, I can tell you that would not be the case.


In order to keep people safe, it’s important for law enforcement officers to be able to accurately identify anyone they’re dealing with. Usually, a driver’s license is a good indicator of identity. But, as Governor Charlie Baker noted when he vetoed this bill, the Registry of Motor Vehicles does not have the ability to verify the identity of people who are not in this country legally and who seek to establish identity based on consular documents from other nations. As the governor warned, with this law a standard Massachusetts driver’s license “will no longer confirm that a person is who they say they are.”

I am convinced that the serious risks to public safety brought about by this law dramatically outweigh any possible benefits. Complicated immigration matters need to be addressed by our federal leaders in Washington. We cannot expect our RMV to perform the functions our federal immigration system should be doing. If you want safe roads, vote no on Question 4.

Representative Steven G. Xiarhos

West Barnstable

The writer represents the Fifth Barnstable District.

Vote yes: Add a layer of protection on our roads

Thank you for Yvonne Abraham’s recent column “A GOP scare tactic” (Metro, Sept. 29). The New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, of which I am chair, strongly supports a yes vote on Question 4. While immigrants will certainly benefit, we are all safer if drivers on the road are tested, licensed, and insured.


It is critical to address two misconceptions. First, the issuance of a driver’s license does not confer any legal status in the United States. Second, a license will not allow an undocumented immigrant driver the ability to vote or obtain need-based federal benefits. In the process of applying for a driver’s license, the Registry of Motor Vehicles still must confirm identify and residence.

This bill will not change the reality that thousands of undocumented immigrants are on the road every day. What it would do is add an extra layer of protection by mandating that everyone meet minimal safety rules. Further, this bill would alleviate the large burden now placed on RMV workers to analyze complex combinations of US Immigration documents governing legal status. Finally, it just makes fiscal sense. When New Jersey updated its driver’s license requirements, the state was estimated to take in $11.7 million in license fees alone.

It is time the Commonwealth join 16 other states that have enacted similar provisions. Separating the issuance of driver’s licenses from the issue of lawful status can be justified from several perspectives. The real issue is over safety on the road.

Adrienne J. Vaughan