Twenty-one Mass. Law Enforcement Leaders Stand Up for Driver’s License Bill

Frank Soults, 32BJ SEIU, (860) 471-5692 fsoults@seiu32bj.org

Twenty-one Mass. Law Enforcement Leaders Stand Up for Driver’s License Bill

Police chiefs and sheriffs convene on Zoom to express support and answer questions from legislators and media

MASSACHUSETTS – At 10 o’clock Tuesday morning, 21 Massachusetts law enforcement leaders gathered on Zoom from across the Commonwealth to brief legislators and the media on their support for the Work and Family Mobility Act, a bill that would allow all qualified Bay State residents to apply for a standard state driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status.

Currently awaiting action by the legislature’s transportation committee, the bill has garnered more support this session than ever, both inside the State House and out, positioning Massachusetts to become the 17th state to remove immigration status as a barrier for tens of thousands of residents who need to drive to work, to medical appointments, and to school. As Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian noted early in the briefing, “It’s really about a lifeline to the services that we need to support our families and communities.”

“Certainly many, many, many of these individuals contribute to the successes of our respective communities across the state – so we stand behind this bill,” agreed Chelsea Chief of Police Bryan Kyes. “We really deem it to be incredibly important.”

As President of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association (MMCC), Chief Kyes served as the informal emcee of the hour-long briefing. He opened his remarks by expressing gratitude to the bill’s lead sponsors—Representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Christine Barber and Senators Brendan Crighton and Adam Gomez – along with the Driving Families Forward Coalition, which sponsored the briefing, for working to construct a bill that would both protect immigrants’ privacy and respect the needs of law enforcement.

In the last legislative session, Chief Kyes noted, the majority of MMCC members voted to endorse the driver’s license bill for the first time. This session, after working with lawmakers and others in the Coalition on the bill’s ID requirements, MMCC members again voted to support the bill, this time unanimously.

“The Major Cities make up just about two-thirds of the officers in the state,” Chief Kyes noted. Its 40 chiefs include the leaders of the state’s largest police departments, serving diverse communities from Boston to Springfield.

In addition to the MMCC, The Work and Family Mobility Act has also been endorsed by 58 individual law enforcement leaders, from small town police chiefs to a majority of the state’s sheriffs and district attorneys, as well as by Attorney General Maura Healey. (See list below)

After his framing remarks, Chief Kyes led what he called an “open discussion” (“I figured we’d just kind of lay it out,” he said), during which about half of the police chiefs in attendance passed through the Zoom spotlight, including chiefs from Lawrence, New Bedford., Pittsfield, Northampton, Amesbury, South Hadley, Norwood, Fitchburg, Lynn and Easthampton.

The speakers returned repeatedly to three crucial themes: public safety, public health, and public trust. Summarizing the first two themes, Sheriff Koutoujian said, “safer roads [come] from more insured motorists, and healthier communities from improved access to care.”

His observation on road safety is borne out by statistics from states that have already passed similar bills, like neighboring Connecticut, which experienced markedly fewer hit-and-run accidents two years after passing a similar bill. The public health point, meanwhile, has been underscored by the pandemic, which experts worldwide agree has made individual access to healthcare even more important in the fight to keep everyone healthy.

Mostly, however, the officers spoke from their own experience about the fear, anxiety and distrust that grips immigrant communities under the current licensing law. Adopting the Work and Family Mobility Act would clear confusion and tension from routine traffic stops and minor accidents, and allow the police to positively identify more motorists and others.

“We’ve all been in those situations where we’ve had these car stops,” Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper said. “We’ve been standing on the side of the road, in the middle of the night, someone in a car, sometimes with a language barrier….We don’t want to have car stops with this heightened stress, where it’s completely unnecessary….If we don’t have [someone’s identity], it just makes our job really challenging.”

“Challenging” was also the word used by New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira.to describe the larger issue of community relations. “Just to work up that trust has been challenging because of this [barrier], because of the fact that it’s still ‘illegal to operate,’ – with that label and continually that term, ‘illegal.’”

Indeed, the chief noted, immigrants without status may often be victims of crime in New Bedford, yet their distrust of local police makes it difficult to bring the criminals who prey on them to justice.

“It’s come to the point that this bill is just as beneficial to the law enforcement community as it is to the immigrants that it serves,” he concluded.

“We, as law enforcement leaders, owe it to those who want to follow the law to offer them an opportunity to do so,” said Amesbury Chief Craig Bailey.

“I want to talk about the dignity we are able to offer our undocumented community members – vital, important members of our community—they want to be in compliance with the law,” added South Hadley Chief of Police Jennifer Gundersen.

Lynn Police Chief Chris Reddy, who experienced technical problems with his microphone, summarized the overriding sentiment of the briefing in a chat box message: “Immigrants in Lynn are valued members of the community who make important contributions to the overall quality of life as well as to the economy. This bill will enable them to care for their families and it will increase the trust between police and the immigrant community. It is simply the right thing to do.”
Studies calculate that well over 200,000 immigrants in Massachusetts lack an authorized immigration status. With the Work and Family Mobility Act, an estimated 41,000 to 78,000 of these residents would obtain licenses within the first three years of implementation.
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The following law enforcement organizations and individual leaders have publicly endorsed the Work and Family Mobility Act:

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
·         Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association
·         Massachusetts Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association
POLICE CHIEFS, COMMISSIONERS AND SUPERINTENDENTS:
Bolded cities indicate members of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association. An asterisk (*) signals attendance at Tuesday’s Law Enforcement Leader Briefing.
1.      * Arlington Chief Juliann Flaherty
2.      * Amesbury Chief Craig Bailey (Acting)
3.      Amherst Chief Scott Livingstone
4.      Bedford Chief Robert Bongiorno
5.      * Belmont Chief James MacIsaac
6.      Brookline Chief Mark Morgan (Acting)
7.      Cambridge Commissioner Dr. Branville Bard, Jr.
8.      * Chelsea Chief Brian Kyes
9.      Dedham Chief Michael D’entremont
10.   Deerfield Chief John Paciorek Jr.
11.   Greenfield Chief Robert Haigh
12.   *Easthampton Chief Bob Alberti
13.   Everett Chief Steven A. Mazzie
14.   Fall River Chief  Jeffrey Cardoza
15.  * Fitchburg Chief Ernest Martineau
16.  * Framingham Chief Lester Baker
17.   * Gloucester Chief Ed Conley
18.   * Great Barrington Chief Paul Storti
19.   * Hadley Chief Michael Mason
20.   * Haverhill Chief Robert Pistone
21.   * Lawrence Chief Roy P. Vasque
22.   Leverett/Wendell Chief Scott Minckler
23.   Lexington Chief Michael McLean
24.   Lowell Superintendent Kelly Richardson
25.   * Lynn Chief Christopher Reddy
26.   Marblehead Chief Dennis King
27.   Methuen Chief Scott McNamara
28.   * New Bedford Chief Paul Oliveira
29.   * Northampton Chief Jody Kasper
30.   * Norwood Chief William Brooks III
31.   Peabody Chief Thomas Griffin
32.   * Pittsfield Chief Michael Wynn
33.   Quincy Chief Paul Keenan
34.   * Revere Chief David Callahan
35.   * South Hadley Chief Jennifer Gundersen
36.   Tewksbury Chief Ryan Columbus
37.   Tyngsboro Chief Richard Howe
38.   Walpole Chief Richard Kelleher
39.   * Waltham Chief Kevin O’Connell
40.   Watertown Chief Michael Lawn
41.   Worcester Chief Steven Sargent

COUNTY SHERIFFS:
1.      Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler
2.       Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger
3.       Franklin County  Sheriff Christopher Donelan
4.       Hampden County Sheriff Nicolas Cocchi
5.      Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick J. Cahillane
6.      * Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian
7.      Norfolk County Sheriff Patrick McDermott
8.      Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins

DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
1.      Berkshire County D.A. Andrea Harrington
2.      Bristol County  D.A. Thomas Quinn
3.      Hampden County  D.A. Anthony Gulluni
4.              Hampshire & Franklin County  D.A. David Sullivan
5.      Middlesex County  D.A. Sheriff Marian Ryan
6.      Norfolk County  D.A. Michael W. Morrissey
7.      Suffolk County  D.A. Rachael Rollins
8.      Worcester County  D.A. Joseph Early

MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL MAURA HEALEY
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The Work and Family Mobility Act has been endorsed by over 270 businesses and organizations

ACLU Massachusetts
ADL New England
AFL-CIO
Alliance for Business Leadership
American Friends Service Committee Northeast Regional Office
Anti-Defamation League
Asian American Resource Workshop
Berkshire Interfaith Organizing
Black Ministerial Alliance
The Boston Foundation
Brazilian Women’s Group
Brazilian Workers Center
Business Innovation Center
Cambridge Police Department
Cape Ann Local Action Network
Cape Cod Coalition for Safe Communities
Cape Verdean Association of Boston
Catholic Charities
Catholic Social Services of Fall River
Center to Support Immigrant Organizing (CSIO)
Centro Comunitario de los Trabajadores
Centro Presente
Coalition for Social Justice
Community Economic Development Center
Congress Insurance
Dominican Development Center, Inc.
Episcopal City Mission
Essex County Community Organization
Executive Committee of the Mattapoisett Democratic Committee
Field First, LLC
Gomez & Palumbo, LLC
Greater Andover Indivisible
Greater Haverhill Indivisible
Green-Rainbow Party
Haitian Comm. Faith Leader
Health and Law Immigrant Solidarity Network
Immigrants’ Assistance Center, Inc.
Indivisble Mystic Valley
INDIVISIBLE: Nantucket
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
Justice at Work
Justice Center of Southeast MA
La Comunidad, Inc.
Latinos unidos en Massachusetts
League of Women Voters – MA
Main Street Alliance
Mass Business Immigration Coalition
Mass Interfaith Worker Justice
Massa Viana Law
Massachusetts Jobs With Justice
MassBudget
Mattapoisett Democratic Committee
MCAN
Merrimack Valley Project
MIRA Coalition
Movimiento Cosecha
National Association of Social Workers
New England Bangladeshi American Foundation Inc
New England Justice for Our Neighbors
North Parish of North Andover UU Racial Justice Team
Open Door Immigration Services
Parenting Journey
Pioneer Valley Interfaith Refugee Action Group
Pioneer Valley Project
Pioneer Valley Workers Center
Progressive Democrats of Mass.
Progressive Massachusetts
Rosie’s Place
Salem Chamber of Commerce
Salem No Place for Hate
SEIU 32BJ
SEIU 509
SEIU 1199
SEIU Massachusetts State Council
Solidarity Lowell
Student Immigrant Movement
Temple Anshe Amunim
The Irish International Immigrant Center
The Paulist Center Immigrant Advocacy Group
The Welcome Project
TPS Committee
Unitarian Universalist Mass Action
Unitarian-Universalist Society of Fairhaven
United Interfaith Action of Southeastern Massachusetts
United Workers Association, Region 9a
Western MA Jobs with Justice
Western Mass Area Labor Federation
Women Encouraging Empowerment

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