Before a License, an Immigration Check?

By Sarah Birnbaum

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May 24, 2012

 
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate is expected to debate a controversial amendment to the state budget that would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to check for proof of lawful immigration status before issuing driver's licenses.
 
The amendment is sponsored by Senate Republican leader Bruce Tarr. He said its a response to the case of President Barack Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, who was arrested in Framingham last year on a drunk-driving charge. He was able to get his license back after a period of probation, even though he had been in the U.S. illegally since the 1990s.
 
Onyango Obama's immigration status came to light after his arrest. Federal officials then launched new efforts to deport the president's uncle, who plans to fight the deportation.
 
The RMV is not required under state law to check immigration status and officials have said that the president's uncle presented the necessary documentation to obtain a license.
 
Eva Milona of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition opposes the measure, saying the RMV doesn’t have the resources or expertise to enforce federal immigration law.
 
“This amendment, in our view, it’s not an improvement on current policy, but would instead create more confusion and creates wrongful denials of licenses to documented applicants," she said. "Our concern is that it might refuse a driver's license or learner’s permit to anyone that it would have reasonable cause to suspect has presented invalid proof of immigration status.”
 
Milona also blasted Republicans for loading up the state budget with what she called anti-immigrant amendments.
 

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