Help Us Drive Families Forward by Joining a Phone Bank!
By: Ben Rutberg
Right now in Massachusetts, only United States citizens and legal residents are allowed to apply for and obtain a drivers’ licenses. There are approximately 255,000 undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts who need to drive in order to get to work, school, or medical appointments. Without a driver’s license, a traffic stop for not signaling a turn or for having a busted taillight can turn into an arrest, ICE detention, a court date, and deportation. A driver’s license is a basic right that Massachusetts is denying to a huge number of its residents.
The Driving Families Forward Coalition is working to solve this problem by passing the Work and Family Mobility Act, H.3012 (Farley-Bouvier and Barber) and S.2061 (Crighton) This bill would enable all qualified state residents to apply for a standard Massachusettsdriver’s license, regardless of immigration status, while keeping our Commonwealth in full compliance with REAL ID requirements. We at Jobs With Justice have been supporting them and finding community with each other by phone banking for this bill.
At the beginning of each phonebank, we share who we are and why we feel that we need to take action for this campaign. We are immigrants, children of immigrants, and U.S.-born citizen allies who are horrified at the way our government treats our siblings from other parts of the world. As each of us shares our stories, a feeling settles in the room and connects us: a shared grief at the way the world is, mixed with hope for the way it could be.
And then, after a quick training, we get on the phones; we call constituents of certain target legislators and ask them to leave voicemails with their representatives in support of the bill. The room fills with noise, voices, the ringing of bells accompanied by cheering to signify that somebody got a constituent to leave a voicemail. Once it becomes too late to keep calling, we come back together for a debrief, to trumpet our good calls and shake off the bad, to learn from each other and sit together knowing that we have all just done something concrete to protect our fellow Massachusetts residents from ICE.
With these phonebanks, we are doing some of the most important and strategic work of the campaign. Legislators don’t get a lot of constituent voicemails, so every single call they get makes them sit up and pay attention. And in the five weeks since we began phone banking, we have gotten sixty-five people to leave voicemails! This work is especially vital because after the hearing for this bill on September 5th, our opponents have been mobilizing and calling as well, with a couple of legislators each reporting upwards of twenty negative calls. We need to keep up the momentum to ensure that legislators hear that they need to pass this bill.
Given the task ahead of us, we need a massive collective action to protect immigrants’ rights in Massachusetts. So far, thirty individuals have signed up for at least one of our actions, and the only way we keep this movement going is to grow even further. Our next actions are Thursday, September 19th from 6-9pm in downtown Boston and Sunday, September 29th from 4-6pm in Central Square. If you’ve been feeling horrified and helpless at our country’s mistreatment of immigrants, this is how you can protect your neighbors from a traffic stop that could tear their families apart. Sign up here to join our movement!