Under new Cambridge law, undocumented immigrants won’t be arrested for driving without a license

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It’s the law that you need a license to drive.

But, if you’re undocumented and driving without a license in Cambridge, police have been advised not to arrest you for that.

It’s all part of a new law that passed unanimously in the city, which encourages police to summons unlicensed drivers instead of arresting them. The procedure has already been practiced for a while, but city leaders said they felt compelled to officially make it a law, in fear of what could happen to immigration laws should President Trump be re-elected.

“We need to protect our community members from a federal government that’s out of control," said Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan. “There are no other reasons for the police to arrest someone, give them a court summons instead which keeps them out of the clutches of the Trump administration.”

Currently, Massachusetts requires drivers to show proof of legal status in order to obtain a driver’s license, a move that many have opposed saying it makes roads more dangerous.

However, for Zondervan, the move is more of an effort to shield undocumented immigrants from the current federal government.

Recently, immigration officials announced they were sending additional border agents to sanctuary cities in an effort to step up the current administration’s immigration enforcement.

In Cambridge, the efforts to protect undocumented immigrants doesn’t mean they won’t have to respond to legal consequences, but it means they won’t be subject to deportation or at risk of being flagged by ICE.

“We’ve got to stand up for the people who live here,” said Rona Fisherman.

“Targeting people for minor violations really sets them back," said Alex King.

The overwhelming majority of people who spoke to Boston 25 News say they strongly support the new ordinance. Under the new law, officers will look for other ways to avoid impounding cars of unlicensed drivers.

However, some are questioning if this will encourage others to drive without a license.

“I don’t think they should be sent to ice just because they’re trying to live a life here, but I also don’t think you should have unlicensed people driving cars," said Jessie.

From 2017 through 2019, there were 278 cases where Cambridge Police recommended the driver be charged with unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, 201 were handled with a summons while only 77 were handled via arrest.

A police spokesperson says the arrests likely involved additional charges and possibly outstanding warrants. If the driver has other legal troubles, then officers may arrest them.

The new law does not protect people from being arrested for reasons beyond the lack of a valid driver’s license, including active or outstanding warrants, but it does, however, prohibit police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.

Comments on this article