This is a bad time to be an immigrant in this nation of immigrants but a bill before the state Legislature would address legitimate concerns while making roads safer.
A bill sponsored in the House by Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield Democrat, would allow driver's licenses to be issued to state residents who are ineligible for Social Security numbers or who do not have proof of their immigration status (Eagle, March 11). As Representative Farley-Boivier said before a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transportation, the issue is essentially one of safety as there are thousands of drivers on the road who because of the restrictive policy are not trained, licensed, insured, or all of the above.
Beyond this practical argument for the legislation there is a humanitarian one. Those testifying in favor of the bill included asylum seekers who, while their cases wend their way slowly through the immigration bureaucracy, have difficulty getting or keeping jobs and taking their children to school or medical appointments because they cannot get driver's licenses. There is no case to be made for punishing them and their children.
Testifying against the bill, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson indicated he is not cognizant of political realities in asserting lawmakers address the "root cause" of the issue by supporting immigration reform and efforts to secure the country's borders. Though he gets no credit for it, President Obama has dramatically tightened the southwestern border following the sieve-like years of President George W. Bush. And an immigration reform measure that would have addressed this and other issues was sabotaged by House Republicans.
Immigration reform is dead in grid-locked Washington, in part because of the poisonous hate speech of Republican presidential candidates, which means that the states must institute reform measures as best they can. The driver's license bill does exactly that, and after being buried in committee last year it should be passed this year.