The City Council voted Monday night to support state legislation which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
While the Council voted overwhelmingly, 9-1, in support of the measure, one new City Councillor signaled that he would be taking a stand against so-called “virtue-signaling” measures proposed by the Council.
The resolution calls upon the state legislature to pass the Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility, which would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license regardless of their immigration status.
Several councillors spoke in favor of the measure, noting that similar measures have passed in other states, and that the legislation would help make Chelsea’s streets safer.
“This is a unique opportunity to persuade legislators to be on the right side of the aisle,” said District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia. “We will be able to educate drivers and we will be creating roads that are safer for everyone.”
District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez said he agreed, adding that the act would benefit immigrants who need to get safely to school and work, as well as other drivers on the road.
But District 1 Councillor Todd Taylor said he would not vote to support the legislation, and would be voting against any future efforts by the Council to impact state legislation that is outside the purview of the Council.
“This does not belong before the City Council; the City Council has no bearing on the issuance of drivers licenses,” said Taylor. He added that there was no need to put added pressure on Chelsea’s state legislators, since those legislators are all likely in support of the bill.
“Everyone is free to advocate for a bill or not, but anytime a resolution is offered in this manner, which is partisanly political and meant to virtue signal, I will vote no, whether I agree or don’t agree (with the measure),” Taylor said.
Taylor said he was elected to solve Chelsea’s problems, not problems that the City Council is not authorized to deal with.
After the vote, Council President Roy Avellaneda said the Council took the right approach.
“I’m proud that the City Council is on record in support of S2061/H3012 which would allow Massachusetts to join Connecticut, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, in addition to Delaware, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Washington, Maryland, Colorado, Hawaii and California as states that allow undocumented immigrants to attain a driver’s license,” he stated. “I appreciate the work done by the Chelsea Collaborative in advocating with its 235 Driving Families Forward organizational partners, including the Massachusetts AFL-CIO State Federation on this issue and bringing it to our attention. I know that their advocacy was key in making local enforcement officials such as our own Police Chief Brian Kyes support the measure as a way to increase safety on our roadways” When the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs association, which Chief Kyes is president of, and is made up of Chiefs of Police, Commissioners or Superintendents across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State Police, and Transit Police in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, tell you it’s “common sense public policy that benefits everyone;” you listen, Avellaneda added.