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MA Advocates Laud Increased Resources for Non-English Speakers

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Tuesday, November 15, 2022   

On the heels of the midterm election, and passage of Question 4, which upheld a law allowing immigrants without legal status in the U.S. to receive driver's licenses, immigrant-rights activists are celebrating another win as the state increases translation services for non-English speakers in the Commonwealth. Governor Charlie Baker recently signed the $3.7-billion Economic Development Bill, which includes $20-million for the needs of immigrants and refugees.

Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said additional funding will help expand access for non-English speakers at the R-M-V.

"So that will include ensuring that critical documents are made available in multiple languages and including the hiring of multilingual staff," she said.

More online resources, including voter information, will also be translated and an overall language access plan across multiple agencies will be created. The new services will arrive just as thousands of newly eligible drivers could apply for licenses in the Commonwealth next July.

An estimated 250,000 undocumented people live in Massachusetts, which now joins 16 other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing people without legal status in the U.S. to receive driver's licenses.

Sweet said the Commonwealth is receptive to increasing opportunities for newcomers and that both the new funding and passage of Question 4 will make the roads safer for all drivers.

"They're going to ensure that all drivers, regardless of immigration status, can take the same road test, meet the same identification requirements and follow the same rules of the road," Sweet said.

Advocates for immigrants and refugees say they will keep pushing for increased language access at all state agencies, after pandemic-related disruptions in employment, business and health only increased the need for language services.


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