Immigrants push for driver’s licenses and language programs

BOSTON (WWLP) – Immigrants make up a large part of our workforce, but many of them can not get a driver’s license. They either can’t pass the English driving test or they’re waiting on immigration status, and it is making it difficult for them to support their families.

“They need to be able to work and get to work. There isn’t enough public transportation in western Mass. and they need to drive,” said Barbara Paul of Holyoke Community College.

Immigrants gathered at the State House to push for the right to drive and for more state-funded English programs so they can find better jobs.

“It’s very hard to find a job if we don’t know the original language, you know, especially English. This education is for free and most of us, we don’t have the money to support this education,” said Yesenia Santiago of Holyoke Community College.

Immigrants eager to find employment are asking the state for $35 million so they can learn English. They are also pushing for a bill that would allow illegal immigrants and those waiting on immigration status to obtain a driver’s license.

“These are programs that really help our state. Keeping the streets safe, it’s not good just for immigrants, but you know, it’s good for everybody who lives here,” said Eva Millona of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

Passing the safe driving bill will reduce the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers in the state and bring in an estimated $15 million in revenue through fees paid by immigrant drivers.

The Safe Driving bill is being debated by the Joint Committee on Transportation with a deadline in mid-May. As for more education funding, the Massachusetts House is releasing their budget Wednesday.

blog comments powered by Disqus