Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Tuesday that will allow immigrants who are in the country illegally to obtain state driver’s licenses.
An estimated 81,000 illegal immigrants reside in Minnesota.
“Ensuring drivers in our state are licensed and carry insurance makes the roads safer for all Minnesotans,” Walz said in a statement. “As a longtime supporter of this bill, I am proud to finally sign it into law, making our roads safer and moving us toward our goal of making Minnesota the best state to raise a family for everyone.”
During the committee process, Republicans argued that the bill doesn’t do enough to prevent illegal immigrants from using their IDs to vote or sign up for benefits. Democrats rejected an amendment that would have required these IDs to include a “not voting” label.
Illegal immigrants were eligible for driver’s licenses in Minnesota until 2003, when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty established a requirement that applicants demonstrate proof of legal residence.
“For those who think we’re moving too fast, it took 20 years to get to here,” Walz said during a press conference Tuesday. “There is no moving too fast on driver’s licenses for all.”
In testimony submitted to legislators, the Foundation for American Immigration Reform said granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants “aids and abets their efforts to live and work illegally in the United States.”
“[G]ranting a driver’s license to illegal aliens accommodates and rewards those who violate our immigration laws and encourages others to follow the same path,” the group said. “States that grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens become magnets for illegal immigration. It also gives prospective immigrants little incentive to pursue legal paths to immigration when they can side step the process and gain the same benefits.”
Police groups expressed support for the bill. They argued that many illegal immigrants already drive to work and school but do so without passing any written or on-the-road exams.
“We believe it will make our roads safer for everyone as it requires a written and driving test to obtain a license, ensuring that all drivers are certified to drive. Driver’s licenses for all will no doubt lead to fewer accidents and could lower the rate of uninsured drivers. Finally, it will provide verification of everyone’s identity, giving law enforcement a greater ability to protect the public’s safety,” the Police and Peace Officers Association said.