Youth leaders lobby for licenses

By Sara Creato

High School View

Members of the Student Immigrant Leadership Club (SILC) at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) traveled to the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Feb. 13, to lobby for the Work and Family Mobility Act. If passed, the bill will allow all qualified Massachusetts residents to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. 

The SILC delegation met with other students from high schools in Boston and Melrose, as well as with advocates from the Service Employees International Union. Students read statements and poems about what the legislation would mean to them if passed, and then marched to the State House, chanting, “What do we want? Licenses! When do we want them? Right now!” in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Once there, they delivered the items to senators and representatives, and met with representative Dylan Fernandes for a tour of the State House. 

SILC members first raised the idea for the trip during a circle discussion about issues that were important to them; a major issue was that of driver’s licenses. The members took action, and made an appearance on the school newscast “The Grapevine” to discuss the issue. Later, English as a Second Language teacher Cherri Cluff reached out to a group in Boston, and began coordinating the trip to the State House. 

This legislation could be beneficial for the Vineyard community at large. Senior Vitoria Krasa elaborated, “As an immigrant, I’ve seen it up close, with someone who doesn’t have a license. They’re in a desperate situation where they need to bring their kid to the hospital, bring their kids to school, or just get to work. I feel like it’s something we really do need, especially here on the Island, when a huge part of our community are immigrants.”

“Allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire their driver’s license would improve safety,” said MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy. “Studies have shown that safety is improved when people are trained to drive, have licenses, and are subject to whatever laws and rules around driving exist. The reality is many people who live here, documented or undocumented, need cars to get to work and to live here.”

MVRHS restorative justice coordinator and trip chaperone Nell Coogan agrees: “We have people living here who need to make money for their families to eat and survive. Obviously, I think it’s also a way to get on track for citizenship. Public safety-wise, if someone is out there trying to make ends meet and they’re driving illegally, at least this way everyone who’s driving on the roads can feel safer.”

The Work and Family Mobility Act has since passed out of the transportation committee, and is scheduled to be voted on by the wider house in July.