Mass. labor leaders to fast for undocumented license bill

Returning to a strategy that preceded the bill’s progress through a committee, organized labor leaders plan to fast for a day to press lawmakers into supporting legislation that would make standard driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts.

Officials from several of the region’s largest labor groups plan to rally outside the State House at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, where they will announce their commitment to a one-day fast and highlight the stories of “Black and Brown immigrants who face detention, family separation and deportation for driving without a license.”

Between 41,000 and 78,000 of the roughly 185,000 undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts could obtain licenses within three years of the bill’s enactment, supporters estimate.

“By denying tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants the ability to get a license, we are increasing the likelihood of coronavirus transmission and worsening the trust between Black and brown residents and law enforcement,” Roxana Rivera, vice president of the 32BJ SEIU union that represents a largely immigrant workforce, said in a press release. “Never has there been a more important time for this bill to pass than now. That is why I am committed to participate in this fast.”

The legislation (H 3012/S 2061), dubbed by supporters as the Work and Family Mobility Act, received a favorable report along party lines from the Transportation Committee in February, several days after supporters launched a hunger strike to draw attention to the issue.

The committee version of the bill has sat untouched for months before the Senate Ways and Means Committee. In September, Senate President Karen Spilka said the bill should pass for public safety reasons. “There’s like 14 other states that have done this and the sky hasn’t fallen,” Spilka said.

Organizers are rallying around a driver’s license amendment sponsored by Reps. Christine Barber and Tricia Farley-Bouvier to a policing reform bill marked for House deliberations on Wednesday and Thursday.

(Copyright (c) 2020 State House News Service.