Immigrants ‘work with dignity,’ deserve Mass. driver’s licenses, say demonstrators

Omar Contraras joined the march to urge support for the Work and Family Mobility Act.
Omar Contraras joined the march to urge support for the Work and Family Mobility Act.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

WINTHROP — Dozens of demonstrators marched through the hometown of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Saturday, calling on the Democratic leader to support legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to get state driver’s licenses.

The group urged DeLeo to support the Work and Family Mobility Act, which advocates said would let undocumented immigrants to obtain official identification and allow them to drive to work, school, and other destinations.

The legislation would not interfere with the federal Real ID program, which requires that drivers prove they are citizens or in the United States legally.

Edina Perlera, 43, came to the United States with family eight years ago, after her children were threatened due to her work in local government in El Salvador.


Perlera, who lives with her husband and her now college-aged children, said she has had to pass up technology jobs in suburbs like Marlborough because she can’t drive.

“We work with dignity. We want to be able to transport ourselves from one place to another with dignity, as well,” she said of herself and fellow undocumented immigrants.

A line of protesters left the Orient Heights MBTA station in neighboring East Boston and marched into Winthrop on Saturday afternoon, many with signs bearing slogans like “Licenses now DeLeo we can’t wait.”

During the march, demonstrators were asked to call and leave voice mails at DeLeo’s office asking him to support the bill.

A DeLeo spokeswoman said in an e-mail Saturday that the bill is under review by the Joint Committee on Transportation.

A Winthrop police cruiser escorted the group as they made their way down the sidewalk along Main Street.

Winthrop Police Sergeant Mary Crisafi said in an e-mail that the demonstration was peaceful.

“Winthrop Police worked with the organizers to ensure that they had a successful march as they exercised the Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly while we maintained open roadways for safe passage of motorists,” she said.


Among the demonstrators was Omar Contraras, 36, who immigrated from El Salvador 15 years ago.

Contraras works as a carpenter, but because he is an undocumented immigrant, he is unable to obtain a driver’s license, he explained through a translator.

If he could speak to DeLeo directly, he would say: “Take us into consideration: We are part of the community.”

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com