Massachusetts Senate Debates Controversial Immigration Amendment

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 drivers licenses.

The amendment is sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr. He says 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. Obama was able to get his license back after a periodof probation – even though he’s been in the United States illegally since the 1990s. His illegal-immigrant 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 Registry 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.

Immigration advocate 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.  Our concern is that it might refuse a drivers 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.