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Baker seeks to restrict IDs to residents

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Governor Charlie Baker’s amendment is likely to pass muster with state lawmakers, who must approve the governor’s change before the budget is signed into law.Bill Sikes

Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday he plans to file an amendment to the state budget that would require residents to show they are "lawfully present" in the country before getting driver's licenses.

Republican lawmakers had urged Baker to look over the language in the state budget bill, which the governor is now reviewing, to make sure Massachusetts is in compliance with Real ID, a 2005 federal law that mandated stricter requirements for identification cards.

In a statement Wednesday, Baker said his change would eliminate any uncertainty.

"As the Commonwealth works to comply with new standards set by the federal government for credential holders, it is imperative that we provide greater security and ensure that new licenses are only obtained by individuals with proper documentation, including proof of lawful presence," he said.

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The amendment would be direct about who would be granted a driver's license: "No license of any type may be issued to any person who does not have lawful presence in the United States."

Massachusetts is among many states across the country that haven't yet updated their rules to match the Real ID requirements, and a failure to do so would have meant residents wouldn't be able to rely solely on their state-issued IDs to board domestic flights or enter federal buildings. In late 2015, the Department of Homeland Security granted Massachusetts an extension on complying with the legislation.

Earlier Wednesday, the state Senate's Republican caucus wrote a letter to Baker asking him to "undertake a thorough analysis" of the budget and reject any language that could allow a driver's license to go to someone who was not lawfully present in the country.

Baker's amendment is likely to pass muster with state lawmakers, who must approve the governor's change before the budget is signed into law.

Seth Gitell, a spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Wednesday the speaker supports complying with the federal requirements of Real ID. And during an appearance on Greater Boston, a WGBH television show, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg also said the state must pass Real ID so that "we don't have a problem with the federal government."

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That would come even as other lawmakers have pushed for a law that would grant undocumented immigrants the right to obtain driver's licenses. Proponents of such legislation, which has been introduced in several legislative sessions but not been passed, say it would make streets safer.


Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.