Governor Deval Patrick on Friday vetoed a bill designed to keep illegal immigrants from registering motor vehicles in Massachusetts. The bill Patrick vetoed would have required the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain “proof of legal residence” from anyone registering a car in Massachusetts. Lawmakers pushed the measure in response to the outcry following several fatal auto accidents caused by drivers who were in the country illegally.
In his veto message, Patrick argued that the measure would force the Registry to “identify and police undocumented people,” even though he said that is the duty of the federal government, not states. The governor argued that the measure would force the Registry to ‘identify and police undocumented people.’
The recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Arizona’s tough immigration law “underscores the importance of states treading lightly in the enforcement of federal immigration rules,” the governor wrote. Patrick also argued that it is hard to understand how a “nonresident” simply owning a vehicle in Massachusetts jeopardizes public safety. Indeed, he said it would improve public safety if the Registry keeps a record of every car, regardless of the owner’s residency status.
Lawmakers could override Patrick’s veto but they would have to act quickly because formal sessions end on Tuesday. Senator Richard T. Moore, an Uxbridge Democrat who supports the bill, said he was disappointed but not surprised that Patrick rejected it. The governor has been an outspoken critic of efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Moore said he hopes legislators commit to an override vote.
“The public deserves the protection of knowing that people who are on the roads are on the roads legally,” he said. “It’s clearly a public safety issue, and that’s why the Legislature supported it.”