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The Argument: Should voters keep the law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses?

Read two views and vote in our online poll below.


The Rev. Ian Holland

Senior pastor, The First Church in Swampscott, Congregational

Rev. Ian Holland

I am pastor of a local church, a leader in the Essex County Community Organization, and an immigrant.

Following generations of Irish immigrants, in 1987 I came from Cork to build a future in Boston. I learned quickly that many aspects of life here depend on a driver’s license. Access to work, health care, education, and daily errands routinely requires a car.

As a parent, having a car was critical. With my kids in the car, I was grateful licensed drivers in Massachusetts are insured, registered, and have passed driver’s tests.


A driver’s license is also an accepted form of identification and proof of age for banking, credit, cellphone contracts, and more. Without a license, one is often invisible to many facets of our society.

For these reasons, we need to pass Question 4 on the Nov. 8 ballot, keeping a state law that allows all Massachusetts residents to obtain driver’s licenses — regardless of immigration status — provided they meet the other qualifications.

Irish immigrants in times past encountered the hatred of “no Irish need apply” but became fundamental to building this country. They labored for the common good, but were stereotyped as lazy, unintelligent, and alcoholic — unworthy of full recognition and dignity — used, but not fully seen. It was immoral and a sin against the God whose sacred image is bestowed on every human being.

Today, people flee homelands of violence, war, and poverty to live, work, and seek freedom here. Like the Irish arrivals before, our economy needs their participation in a tight labor market. More than 200,000 are undocumented, yet they repair our houses, care for our sick and elderly, sustain our supply chains. They are “essential workers.”

It’s immoral to use them and then pretend to not fully see them. We should join 17 states recognizing their presence and contributions, gaining safer roads and an economic boost. Understanding such benefits, over 60 law enforcement leaders including sheriffs, district attorneys, and police chiefs support voting YES on 4.


The mother of the Boston police officer who administered my driver’s test came from Cork, too. With his help, I earned my first license. With insurance and a car, I could contribute to my community fully and safely — one more immigrant making a difference.

Vote YES on 4.


Wendy Wakeman

Wendy WakemanJohn Milligan

North Andover resident; petition drive administrator for the group seeking repeal of the law

A law takes effect in July 2023 allowing foreign nationals to receive a standard Massachusetts driver’s license, even if they have failed to follow proper immigration protocol. It’s a bad law. Voting no on Question 4 stops it from being implemented.

Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the law, saying the Registry of Motor Vehicles wasn’t equipped to implement it. The RMV would need to verify identities of the undocumented residents, a task properly handled by federal immigration agencies. Being able to properly identify someone can separate out people with established records of bad driving and criminal behavior. Language barriers and international diplomacy issues would place big burdens on the Registry.

In his veto message, Baker cautioned that the law increased the chances non-citizens could vote in Massachusetts elections, saying that the measure “restricts the Registry’s ability to share citizenship information with those entities responsible for ensuring that only citizens register for and vote in our elections.” Like the RMV, municipal clerks are not equipped to vet this new category of undocumented license holders.


Proponents of the law argue that undocumented families need help. Parents need to drive their kids to school and pick up groceries, regardless of their immigration status.

This argument makes issuing licenses seem like a kindness. It isn’t. The folks who would be eligible for licenses still won’t be able to hold legal jobs. They will be licensed drivers with employment options limited to under-the-table work — lacking the benefits that American workers are afforded — or obtaining jobs under false pretenses. The problems that illegal immigrants face are not solved by this law. They are federal, not state, problems.

Let’s pressure Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation for a real solution.

For me, the strongest argument against issuing Massachusetts driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is fairness. Legal immigration has made America a great nation. The team that initiated putting Question 4 on the ballot — in hopes of repealing it — included legal immigrants like Raymond Xie, a Chinese immigrant who took part in freedom marches at Tiananmen Square; Hungarian immigrants Robert and Katalin Egri; and Korean immigrant Elizabeth Groot.

I will vote no on Question 4 out of my respect for them and their journeys to American citizenship.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact


This is not a scientific survey. Please only vote once.