As a part of my Ballot Question Series, I sat down and talked with Laura Rotolo, Advocate for Yes On 4 in Massachusetts.
Laura Rótolo is the Field Director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. first joined the ACLU of Massachusetts in 2007 as a human rights fellow studying immigration detention conditions, and was part of the legal team that challenged the legality of the largest immigration raid in Massachusetts. Currently, Laura leads the Field team, which includes organizers, campaign strategists and policy experts. She works with advocates at the local, state and federal levels on issue-based campaigns and community building efforts. As a Latina and an immigrant from Argentina, she often advocates within Latinx communities in Massachusetts.
Laura is a graduate of Tufts University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and American University’s Washington College of Law.
Connect with Yes On 4, Safe Roads MA
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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors
Jimmy Tingle 0:05
Hello everybody, this is Jimmy, welcome to another episode of the Jimmy tingle show. We are so thrilled today to educate and enlighten our viewers and our listeners. today. We have an advocate today but yes on Question Four. Laura Rotolo is a field director and an attorney for the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. She is working passionately to pass yes on for the ballot question on the November 8 ballot here in Massachusetts. Ladies and gentlemen, drumroll please, please welcome to the show the one and only Laura Rotolo. Hello, Laura, how are you?
Laura Rotolo 0:41
Hi, Jamie, thank you so much for having me here.
Jimmy Tingle 0:44
It’s our pleasure. So Laura, first of all, you’re advocating to keep this law that was passed by the legislature vetoed by Governor Baker recently passed the legislature they overrode his veto. What is the official name of the law?
Laura Rotolo 1:01
The official name of the law is the work and family mobility act. And what voters need to remember as they start to early vote and go into polling locations is to vote yes, on Question four, to keep the work and family mobility Act. There are four statewide questions on the ballot where the last one there may be some local questions, but look for Question four and vote yes.
Jimmy Tingle 1:21
And now this law is basically in layman’s terms. It’s allowing undocumented people in Massachusetts who meet all the criteria to apply and obtain driver’s license, correct. That’s it. That’s all
Laura Rotolo 1:35
it is. It’s to make sure that everyone who is a qualified driver in Massachusetts can obtain a driver’s license a standard Massachusetts license, regardless of their immigration status, we know that immigration is a federal issue, and then our licenses are a state issue. We want to make sure that everyone who is driving on our roads is licensed, tested, and insured, which will make our roads safer for everyone.
Jimmy Tingle 2:00
What is the need for this? Like, where does this need come from?
Laura Rotolo 2:04
So the need comes from the fact that prior to this law, people who live here and are driving on the roads have to get to work have to go to you know, take their kids to the doctor couldn’t do so in a legal way, if they lacked immigration papers, right? If something happened with their immigration status, and they didn’t have federal immigration status, they could not get a driver’s license in Massachusetts. Now 16 Other states before Massachusetts didn’t allow people without immigration documents to get a driver’s license. And many of those are our neighbors like Connecticut, on the northeast New York, New Jersey, it was something that immigrants could do. And we didn’t have that ability here in Massachusetts. So after many years of work, our state legislature passed the work and family mobility Act to allow all drivers to get licensed, tested and insured. And we pass that overwhelmingly in the statehouse twice, we passed it once, and then once again to override a governor’s veto. And now for a third time, it is now on the ballot to be able to keep this important law. And a yes vote on Question four allows us to do that.
Jimmy Tingle 3:11
And it’s been some 20 years in the making for the advocates have been working at this for a while, right?
Laura Rotolo 3:17
Yeah, that’s right. It took a while to make sure that we had, that the law was right, that the language was good. And we were able to learn from the experience of these other 16 states before us, you know, some states have had this for over a decade. And so we saw what they did we learn from, you know, their earlier versions, what went well, what didn’t go well, we refined the bill, we worked with our law enforcement partners to make sure that the language made sense and was you know, workable on a day to day basis. One of the things that we heard from law enforcement is that they really need to be able to tell who’s behind the wheel if there is an accident, for example. And so we’ve worked with them to make sure that the documentation that people will provide, really makes us feel comfortable about their identity. So because we were the 17 state, we took our time we did it right. And we feel comfortable that this is really one of the best laws in the country on this issue.
Jimmy Tingle 4:13
Well, why do you think that it was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the legislature? Do you think the pandemic had anything to do with that? I mean, why did why does it seem to be this large consensus now, after 20 years of trying to get it? Yeah, and I think
Laura Rotolo 4:31
consensus is the right word. It’s not every day that you get partners from, you know, from faith groups, to law enforcement to immigrants rights groups to civil rights groups like us, all on the same side of an issue. We did learn during the pandemic that some of the hardest hit communities for undocumented people who were on the front lines of so many of the service jobs that we needed to keep the Commonwealth running to keep the country running, right. So who was stocking the shelves at the Super Markets when other people were working from home, who was driving, who was doing, you know, caring for people who were ill, a lot of those jobs are done by undocumented immigrants, and they just need to drive to get to work, which is why the original bill was called the work and family mobility act, people just need to get to work, need to get their kids to school need to go to the doctor’s offices. And we learned that during the pandemic, just how essential and important these members of our communities are.
Jimmy Tingle 5:31
Do you have any idea? Does anybody have any idea roughly what percentage of our workforce is in fact undocumented?
Laura Rotolo 5:39
We don’t know the exact numbers, but we do know that several 1000 10s of 1000s of immigrants will be newly eligible for this license. If yes, one four does continue to pass. And that means that we’re actually going to get about $5 million of revenue into the state, just from fees that they’re going to be paying into the RMV to get those licenses and fees, you know, insurance fees, and all sorts of things that people will be paying newly into the system. So it’s going to actually bring in some revenue into the state as well.
Jimmy Tingle 6:12
Are the majority of employers in favor of it? Or do you have any kind of data on that?
Laura Rotolo 6:18
We do have in a lot of the employers who were very active during the passing of the work and family mobility act for those in Western Massachusetts. So those in the agricultural sector because of course, they need people to, you know, to pick crops to work in, in the agricultural parts of Western Massachusetts, where, of course, there’s very little public transportation. So there’s a lot of driving to work out there. And those employers were very supportive of the law and continue to be supportive of DSM four.
Jimmy Tingle 6:49
And what about the counter-arguments that these people will, once they go to the registry and get a driver’s license that they’ll automatically be eligible to vote? Is that true?
Laura Rotolo 7:00
It’s about myth has been debunked over and over again. I mean, the Secretary of State himself has said that there are systems in place to prevent that from happening. It’s true, you can when you get a license, you can also register to vote. But many people who are not eligible to vote now get licenses. So 1617 year olds who can’t vote yet, people who have a green card, you know, legal immigration status can get a license, and they don’t get registered to vote, only US citizens are registered to vote at their RMV or elsewhere. It’s simply not a problem. And nobody has been able to point to the fact that it actually is a danger or is actually happening.
Jimmy Tingle 7:41
Okay, so so when you go to register to vote, you have to have proof of citizenship, and a driver’s license is not sufficient as proof of citizenship. Is that correct?
Laura Rotolo 7:50
That’s right, the driver’s license tells you where you are, and that you can drive that you’ve passed a road test, that you know, the rules of the road that you’ve got insurance, and that you can be on the road safely.
Jimmy Tingle 8:00
Right now, the people that are supporting that you were saying some of the advocates at home.
Laura Rotolo 8:07
So a lot of labor unions have been the lead activist advocates here. Labor unions and workers groups, there’s a lot of faith groups, and our law enforcement partners. So the district attorneys, and the Chiefs of Police, a majority of district attorneys, and sheriffs have endorsed the work and family mobility act, over 60, law enforcement officials endorsed the work and family mobility at the Major City Chiefs Association. So these are the city chiefs who know all about traffic and know all about you know what happens on our streets. They’ve all endorsed the work and family mobility app, and are continuing to support a vote on yes on for, because it’s a common sense public safety tool.
Jimmy Tingle 8:52
And now who is opposing it and why.
Laura Rotolo 8:55
So the opposition is a pretty small group, and they you know, have arguments that have been debunked, such as the voting argument we just talked about. And you know, there’s a lot of fear mongering out there that just just can be debunked very easily. If you really look at who’s supporting the law, and what the experience of other states has been. It’s been overwhelmingly positive.
Jimmy Tingle 9:21
And I heard one of the counter arguments, and we’ll have an opposing view on as well, in another interview, but one of the opposing arguments was that might act as a magnet for people coming from other countries or other states. What do you think about that?
Laura Rotolo 9:37
Well, that hasn’t happened in the other states, the other 16 states that have passed it, and now Rhode Island has also passed it. And so there are similar laws all around the northeast of mass of the United States. So if you look at New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, now Rhode Island, many states have very similar laws. I think if people are coming to Massachusetts, it’s because it’s a great place to live. Not because As you know of this particular law,
Jimmy Tingle 10:02
maybe they just want to use our beautiful public transportation. Maybe I’ll go apple picking in the Berkshires,
Laura Rotolo 10:08
maybe get some apple cider donuts.
Jimmy Tingle 10:11
If people are interested in supporting you, or learning more about this, or just more information or donations, I assume you take donations.
Laura Rotolo 10:21
Absolutely. Unfortunately, this kind of campaign is very expensive to run. And we wish we didn’t have to do it. But here we are. We’re gonna do it again. The best place to learn more is safe roads. ma.com. That’s the main website of the campaign. But I think number one, please go out and vote yes, on four. And one important thing to keep in mind is that Question four, maybe on the back of your ballot, it might be on a second page to a depends on your municipality, but it’s not in the front of the ballot. So make sure you read your whole ballot and look for Question four at the end, and tell your friends and family about it. One of the issues that we’re seeing is that because this was added so late, it didn’t make it into that book that all voters get mailed home from the Secretary of State that one with the red cover on it. I know I often wait till the last minute read that book and then go vote. It’s not in there this year. So please tell your friends tell your family to vote yes on four. And if you want to make some phone calls with us, knock on some doors donate money. The website is safe roads. ma.com
Jimmy Tingle 11:26
safe roads. ma.com Laura matola from the American Civil Liberties Union choose an attorney and the field director for the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union. Thank you so much for joining us today. Laura. Good luck on Question Four.
Laura Rotolo 11:41
Thank you so much for covering this important issue and for having me on. Our pleasure.
Jimmy Tingle 11:45
Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity. Jimmy tingle.com Thank you