Mass. Bishops urge 'yes' vote on Question 4

BRAINTREE -- The bishops of the four dioceses of Massachusetts are adding their voice to those urging a yes vote on Question 4 that would give Massachusetts residents the ability to obtain a driver's license regardless of immigration status.

The measure will "finally provide immigrants, who are too often marginalized, the opportunity to legally drive to work, the grocery store, medical appointments, childcare, school, and other essential tasks without the fear of violating the law," the bishops said in a statement issued Oct. 21 by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the Commonwealth.

Question 4 is a veto referendum on House Bill 4805, the Work and Family Mobility Act, which removes the provision of state law that says, "No license of any type may be issued to any person who does not have lawful presence in the United States." Under the Act, undocumented Massachusetts residents would be able to apply for a driver's license or registration by providing two documents proving their identity, such as a foreign passport, a birth certificate, or a marriage certificate.

The law was passed in June, overriding a veto by Gov. Charlie Baker, and would go into effect July 1, 2023. Now, opponents are seeking to repeal it through the Question 4 ballot initiative in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. A "yes" vote on Question 4 would uphold the new law granting the licenses, while a "no" vote would repeal it.

Supporters believe the Work and Family Mobility Act will improve road safety, since drivers would need to pass a road test and would be able to purchase insurance and provide identification in the event of an accident.

In their Oct. 21 statement, the bishops noted that the bill was supported not only by the state's Catholic dioceses but also by the Major City Chiefs of Police Association and the majority of the state's sheriffs and district attorneys.

The new law's opponents, including Gov. Baker, have expressed fear that it would allow non-citizens to illegally register to vote. However, the MCC emphasized that the law has "numerous" identification and safety provisions, "which will make our roads safer for all operators of motor vehicles."

The full text of the statement can be found at the website of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference,