Massachusetts Closes Illegal Alien Driving Loophole

By Jessica M. Vaughan on August 3, 2012

Massachusetts has joined the ranks of states that see the need to compensate for weak federal immigration enforcement by acting at the state level to make life more difficult for illegal aliens. The Bay State legislature has voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill to crack down on unlicensed illegal alien driving by allowing only licensed or legally present individuals to register vehicles.

The bill closes a common but serious loophole that endures in many states. In Massachusetts it was exposed by police officers who complained of frequent encounters with unlicensed illegal alien traffic offenders. The officers report that typically the illegal alien drivers carry no insurance either, having purchased only the minimum time period of coverage to get a vehicle registration. According to documents obtained by local Fox News investigative reporters, in 2010 there were nearly 200,000 vehicles registered to unlicensed drivers in Massachusetts.

For a more complete look at the vehicle registration loophole, see my colleague David North's report, which has information on each state policy.

Republican lawmakers had been trying to pass this reform for years, but it took a perfect storm of events, some tragic, to create a bipartisan veto-proof consensus large enough to overcome the objections of Gov. Deval Patrick, a friend and ally of President Obama who favors sanctuary policies, and who even tried to block the Secure Communities program from the state. But beginning last August, a continuous string of traffic fatalities involving unlicensed illegal alien drivers raised public awareness of the problem and kept it in the news. These events inspired two Democrats who represent a town with a large illegal population to get behind the bill and work for its passage. Relatives of the victims used social media to organize friends and supporters who swamped state house switchboards and talk radio programs to lobby for the changes.

Lawmakers became further enraged this spring, when the state motor vehicle registry issued a new driver's license to "Omar" Onyango Obama, the uncle of the president, and a long-time immigration fugitive. Obama admitted to a drunk driving charge, but said he needed the license to keep his job as a liquor store manager while he fights being ordered removed a second time.

The lopsided vote for the bill, passed by 135-19-2 in the House and 24-10 in the Senate, was a pointed rebuke to the pro-illegal alien policies of Gov. Patrick. Patrick first tried to water down the legislation, then vetoed it, and then tried to run out the clock on the legislative session, but lawmakers worked into the night to make sure it became law over his objections.

You can't help but wonder, if such an accomplishment is possible in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal of states where Republicans are outnumbered in the legislature 163-37, why has Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives not managed to move even the most obvious pro-immigration enforcement bills that have passed the House Judiciary Committee?