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Editorial: Driver’s license not answer for illegal immigrants

Handling illegal immigration in the United States calls for a pragmatic, just and humane approach by the federal government. What Americans don’t need is some sort of piecemeal answer put together by individual states — and that includes the issuance of drivers’ licenses currently being considered by the commonwealth.

The Legislature’s joint Transportation Committee took the right approach this week in sending for further study a bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. Even though 11 other states have implemented laws allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, we don’t see how this advances or solves the national problem.

Under what was proposed, an individual would not have to provide a Social Security number or other form of documentation, like a passport visa, that allows residents and citizens of other countries who are here legally to apply for a driver’s license. Those advocating for the bill say that this would somehow make Massachusetts roads safer — since not only would these illegal immigrants have to pass their driving test, but they would also then have to be insured if they were to own a car or drive a vehicle for work.

Celia J. Blue, registrar of Motor Vehicles, told a legislative panel earlier this year that “This legislation is about public safety, and ensuring that the drivers on our roads have passed the tests and have the qualifications to be safe drivers.” She went on to say that she thought once in place, this would mean fewer accidents, including those involving non-insured drivers.

Although it may help reduce accidents to some degree, there’s a flip side to this, one with serious consequences. A driver’s license is a form of identification that allows an individual to do a number of things, from traveling on an airplane or Amtrak to opening a bank account, etc.

And, perhaps just as importantly, the bill doesn’t do anything to resolve the base issue — that the individual is here illegally.

As Charles Baker, a Republican running for Massachusetts governor said, “I think it’s really hard for states to solve this on their own.”

As a nation, we need to find the right answer to illegal immigration. Providing illegal immigrants in Massachusetts with an opportunity to obtain a driver’s license does not provide a solution — and could conceivably open a door to identity fraud issues.

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