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Push for driver’s licenses for Mass. immigrants

The largest immigrant advocacy group in New England is again pushing lawmakers to support a bill that would allow foreign-born residents living in the country illegally to secure Massachusetts driver’s licenses.

Massachusetts law requires immigrants seeking a driver’s license to prove that they are in the country legally.

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, or MIRA, said removing that barrier – as proposed under the Safe Driving Bill – would make Massachusetts roads more secure ensuring immigrants living in the country illegally are trained, licensed and insured.

Supporters say the bill would particularly help people who do not live near public transportation. It also would protect the health and well-being of children who depend on their parents in medical emergencies.

Lawmakers have scheduled a hearing on the bill for Feb. 5.

MIRA is calling on supporters to sign and share an online petition supporting the Safe Driving Bill, noting that similar laws are now in effect in Connecticut; Illinois; Maryland; Puerto Rico; California; Washington; Oregon; Nevada; Utah; Colorado; Washington, D.C. and New Mexico.

The online petition tells the story of Valdirene Oliveira, a Brazilian immigrant who came into the country 10 years ago and who is now a mother of 7-year-old daughter, Alicy. The mother said the girl has never been able to walk because she is suffering from spina bifida, a disorder in which the spinal canal and backbone don’t close prior to birth.

“I need a driver’s license to take Alicy to the doctor, to school and to her physical therapy. However, I cannot get one because of my immigration status,” Oliveira said in the petition. “Every day, I face a horrible dilemma: is it more important that my daughter get the medical treatment she needs, or that I don’t run the risk of being taken from her and deported for driving without a license?”

The petition was signed by nearly 1,800 supporters by yesterday.

MIRA is also calling on immigrants, supporters and well-wishers to contact their state senator and representative to urge them to press members of the Joint Transportation Committee to support the Safe Driving Bill.

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