Many hot issues that haven’t yet made it through both legislative chambers could still end up being passed as final budget negotiations wrap up. Granting Minnesota drivers licenses to illegal immigrants is one of them and a press conference was held yesterday to promote the measure.
Rep Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, was the chief sponsor of the bill in the House and spoke yesterday at a press conference held by Safe Roads MN, a coalition which includes advocacy groups Mesa Latina and ISAIAH as well as labor unions like SEIU.
Mesa Latina has held a rallies at the Capitol, has canvassed neighborhoods of key legislators, and even held a protest outside of one Republican representative’s house. The provision has passed in the Senate as an amendment to the omnibus transportation bill.
Alpha News reported in March about support from the Chamber of Commerce which has lead some House Republicans to get on board with the idea, including Assistant Majority Leader Rep Dave Baker, R-Willmar and Rep Denny McNamara, R-Hastings. Speaker Kurt Daudt has stated opposition to the measure this session saying it won’t get a floor vote, but he was supportive of the idea last year when he was Minority Leader.
Earlier this week, Kare 11 reporter, John Croman, tweeted out a link to a May 2014 letter to Mesa Latina from then-House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and then-Speaker Paul Thissen pledging to work on the issue.
At yesterday’s press conference, Rep Karen Clark, D-Minneapolis referenced support from Daudt and stated “We need to expect our leaders to keep their promise.” A recent commentary in the Star Tribune by Minnesota faith-leaders also said that Daudt had “specifically promised that if elected (he) would pass the driver’s license bill that has stalled.”
Critics believe issuing the licenses would reward people who have broken the law and enable them to vote illegally. There are ten states that provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Whether Minnesota joins that minority of states depends on who needs what out of the final budget negotiations.