Activists Camp At State House For Giving Undocumented Immigrants Driver’s Licenses

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Above photo: An encampment has been erected in front of the State House since Friday. People with Pioneer Valley Workers Center and Cosecha Massachusetts are rallying for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff.

Two groups urging state legislators to include a provision that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses have been encamped outside the State House gates since Friday morning, according to organizers.

“This will put pressure so all the legislators can hear us and pass this bill,” said Rolando Oliva, an organizer with Cosecha Massachusetts, in Spanish through a translator as he stood outside the State House late Sunday afternoon. “We have been trying to pass this for 15 years now.”

The encampment Sunday afternoon included about 10 tents where activists have been sleeping during the night as part of the round-the-clock protest in support of the provision, which organizers say could be added to a racial justice bill currently under debate.

The campsite included two metal cages with dummy children wrapped in emergency blankets inside, a reference to the Trump administration’s police of separating children from parents after being arrested during Southern border crossings.

Arrests of immigrants without licenses represent “the most significant form of family separation in Massachusetts,” said Andrea Schmid, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. “This is the way the [Trump administration’s] racism is manifesting here.”

Sixteen states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow or will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, according to the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group.

The camp-out is expected to continue until Monday night, Schmid said. As she stood on the hot sidewalk near the spot where she has been sleeping since Friday, she said that the risks of the pandemic and sweltering weather only help show how important the issue is.

“People are willing to be uncomfortable for days to draw attention to this.”

Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.