Safe Driving Bill makes everyone safer

On January 30, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webBy Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and  do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)

Our city of Somerville, just like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and this great country, has greatly benefited from the contributions of immigrants who have sought their dreams here—the same dreams that so many sought before them—while becoming valued members of our community. The famed entrepreneurial, innovative and determined spirit that characterizes Somerville was and continues to be fueled by—to cite only a few nationalities—the Irish, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Salvadoran, Haitian, Nepalese, and Brazilian immigrants who chose this city as the place where their dreams could take root and grow. Today, one-third of Somerville residents are foreign born and more than 50 languages are spoken in our community. Somerville doesn’t belong to any one culture, age group, class or ethnicity. The people of our city, our state and our country are united in aspiring for a better life for our children and ourselves.

Unfortunately, because of a broken federal immigration system and a deadlocked Congress, too many immigrants find themselves on the margins of society, in a state of legal limbo and economic uncertainty. We cannot wait for the federal government to act anymore. We need to act now. We need to make sure that our community members are not criminalized because of a broken system. These are our neighbors, our children’s classmates, our relatives and friends. These immigrants are an integral part of our communities and deserve to live as equals, and not have their lives shackled by a system that everyone knows is broken and is crying out for reform.

The proposed Safe Driving Bill sponsored by our state Senator Patricia Jehlen and Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield would fix one critical part of this problem by removing immigration status as a barrier to getting a driver’s license—and car insurance. If passed, this bill will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a special driver’s license that would carry all the safety and legal requirements of a standard license. This will benefit everyone. These members of our community who live and work here will be allowed and required to be properly trained, registered and licensed drivers safely sharing our roads as they get to work and live productive lives. Meanwhile the security and safety of all on the road will be better protected.

Like any other driver, those who want the driver’s license made available by this bill must take written and road exams and carry insurance. These are productive members of our community with jobs. This bill allows them to get to and from work safely and legally. It allows our neighbors to get their children to school and doctor’s appointments, and to buy groceries and other daily necessities, all without the fear that anytime they get behind the wheel of the car, their family may be separated and broken up because of our country’s broken immigration system.

Opponents of this legislation will bring up security concerns, but, in fact, this bill increases the security and safety of everyone. It will make sure that those driving are properly trained and licensed, thereby reducing accidents and also helping our first responders identify those involved in accidents. It will increase public safety by freeing police to focus on top safety priorities, rather than becoming mired in time-consuming work currently needed to ascertain an unlicensed person’s identity. By allowing our police and the RMV access to records and legitimate identification for more drivers, it will make it easier for law enforcement officials to identify true public safety threats—those who hold fake licenses, or drive without a license despite a lawful path to obtain a valid license. This is a common sense, pro-public safety approach. Our neighbors shouldn’t have to risk detention just to get to work or school, and our community shouldn’t have to waste resources and decrease safety just because Washington is too gridlocked to fix this.

There are other benefits, too. People who currently have valid Massachusetts driver’s licenses share a disproportionate share of insurance costs, and for those unlucky enough to be in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, that burden can become even more substantial Through this bill, all drivers would have to share in that responsibility, reducing the unfair cost burden on licensed drivers. Massachusetts will also conserve court resources by addressing the black market for fake licenses and support our economy by improving customer access to businesses not easily accessible by foot or public transportation.

Opponents will argue that we are making it practical for undocumented immigrants to live in this country and this state. There is nothing practical about living as an undocumented immigrant, and this law will address only safety and public resource concerns, ensuring more drivers learn the rules of the road and that our neighbors who take the jobs most citizens don’t want will not face detention—on the public dime—for simply commuting. This bill clearly states that these licenses cannot be used for food stamps, welfare benefits or other benefits of citizenship, and that these driver’s licenses provide for driving privileges only to individuals who cannot prove that they are authorized by the federal government to be in the country. These licenses will also be visually distinct from standard driver’s licenses and cannot be used for identification for travel, and must be renewed more often than standard driver’s licenses.

California, New Mexico, Utah, and Illinois are among the eleven states plus the District of Columbia that already have similar legislation on the books. This is about paving the way for others. This is about leading in a time when leadership is necessary here, because we don’t have enough will to lead in Congress. Until those in Washington decide to undertake the reform everyone agrees we need, we should take steps to increase our safety and security while protecting families and productive members our community. We can start by passing this Safe Driving Bill.


13 Responses to “Safe Driving Bill makes everyone safer”

  1. ritepride says:

    yeh mayor! Take care of the problems with the bicycle riders in Somerville first before getting involved in problems of the world, state, etc.
    How about getting bicyclists licensed with photos like car drivers have to do??? Bikes mandated to have licence plates & annual inspection????Bikes being insured???
    Bad enough they are driving erratically on the sidewalks in the squares. Cutting in and out of traffic. Running into people getting out of their cars because their looking down at their watches to time their speed, etc., etc., etc. How about worrying about “protecting families and productive members our community” who have lived here legally for all of their life?

  2. Rich says:

    what will be the penalty for undocumented immigrants driving without a license and insurance?

  3. Somerbreeze says:

    As ritepride points out, we STILL have the goddam sidewalk cyclists
    wreaking havoc, especially for seniors and the disabled.

    And Lego Joe ignores the calls for enforcement, with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink to the cycling lobby and a big broad smirk as he holds high
    the Somerville:Best Walking City trophy!

    Well, you can’t say our city isn’t ripe (Phew!) with ironies….

  4. A.Moore says:

    None Rich, that is only for documented Americans who get a penalty.

  5. Freebie says:

    The whining about sidewalk cycling kills me. I’ve lived here 20 years, walked in the squares regularly, and never had any sort of close call with a bike on the sidewalk.

  6. amen says:

    unbelievable. immigrants are marginalized because of a broken immigration system? who broke it? THEY DID. it’s not broken. the laws are clear, and everyone’s breaking them. and our leaders ignore it and come up with ridiculous ideas like this. follow the rules, and get a license the same way we have to. this would be laughable if it wasn’t so damn serious

  7. The Captain says:

    Joe the Phony Curtatone makes me laugh. He,like our Governor, would give driver;s licenses to all the illegals who drive without a license, without insurance, and without regard for others. What a piece of work.

  8. Mike says:

    The US may soon be the only western country wherein you can get a Driver’s License when you are their illegally. I am fairly liberal – but this is absurd.

    The Dems love illegals because they are future voters. The Reps love them because they drive down wages and are cheap labor. That is why nothing gets done. Both sides pander to the Hispanic vote.

    Note that the Mayor did not use the word “illegal” once.

  9. JM says:

    You can mandate that people who have a license buy insurance. That doesn’t mean people will do it. US citizens get caught all the time driving with a suspended license and/or no-insurance. That’s why when responsible drivers pay their insurance every month they pay an amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. I would be surprised if many illegals will sign up for this.

  10. Scooby Doo says:

    Well, deportation is one option, Rich. Is that what you would advocate?

  11. Johnnie_Jazz says:

    Wrong move. Creating another bureaucracy and paperwork for a “select” group is silly and costly. Make the illegals get here legal (we have a process in place) and give them real licenses and the right all citizens have. What’s so hard about that?

    1. ENFORCE the border strictly effective a TBD date (say:06/01/2014).
    2. Anyone in before that date applies to become a citizen and goes thru the legal process.
    3. ENFORCE the border strictly effective 06/01/2014.
    4. Those who are here illegally, but have followed the process and are in process move to the front and have higher priority than those who did not and have not.
    5. Those that are here illegally and have been paying W2 taxes and UI taxes with a real job also move to the front.
    6. ENFORCE the border strictly effective 06/01/2014.
    7. Anyone wanting to come after 06/01/2014 MUST go thru the legal process or be arrested and deported. No Questions and no more sanctuary city stupidity. ENFORCE the law, but give those that are here now (with the vague laws we have) a path to become citizens. If they don’t do it – deport them.

    Why create a special license and another “class” of citizens. Stupid and political pandering at it’s worst.

    Joey should stick to making sure he keeps lying to us about property taxes going down when he knew full well that the new/adjusted appraisals would give all property owners (and hence tenants ’cause all things roll downhill) a huge kick to the groin. He knew it, but he chose to lie rather than deal with the issue and communicate it himself. He let his poor cronies take the heat whilst he skated away with the colossal lie of “I lowered taxes!” He didn’t and he never will.

  12. gregtowne says:

    Johnnie_Jazz I’d be for your plan if I didn’t know, that as sure as the sun rises in the east and Joe Curtotone will raise taxes, that in 10 years time we wouldn’t be dealing with $15-$20 million brand spanking new illegal immigrants. Protect the border? Please.

  13. Somerbreeze says:

    @Freebie – OK, so all those constituents who’ve call their aldermen
    complaining about bikes on the sidewalks were just indulging themselves
    and making crank calls, eh?

    I don’t know what planet YOU live on, but it sure isn’t Planet Somerville!

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