by Anthony Gockowski
Minnesota Democrats are moving forward with a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, DFL-Minneapolis, lead author of the bill in the Senate, said illegal immigrants were eligible for driver’s licenses in Minnesota until 2003, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty “unilaterally” established a requirement that applicants demonstrate proof of legal residence.
“This body has never passed a statute that restricts the freedom to drive but we can restore it,” she said.
Democrats are simultaneously pushing a bill to bring automatic voter registration to Minnesota, which means those who apply for a driver’s license or other state benefits can be eligible to register to vote at the same time.
However, the bill clarifies that automatic voter registration is limited to those with “documentation or verification of United States citizenship” or to cases where “records reflect that the applicant provided proof of citizenship during a previous agency transaction.”
Republicans think the “Freedom to Drive” bill doesn’t do enough to prevent illegal immigrants from using their IDs to vote or sign up for benefits.
“We all want safe roads and we can do it in a way that doesn’t completely overrun our system with fraud and abuse,” said Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault.
In the House, Rep. Nolan West introduced an amendment that would have required these IDs to include a “not voting” label. The amendment was rejected in the House Transportation Committee.
“I hope you understand that I have supported this bill in the past. I’m not just here to muck up your bill,” he said. “I think this bill will make our roads safer, undoubtedly. The only issue I see is that on the secretary of state’s website, you can present a photo ID, which this would be, with a utility bill or something like that and register to vote. That is concerning.”
Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, said all voters still have to attest to their citizenship and it will remain a felony to do so falsely. Illegal immigrants who illegally cast a vote would be risking deportation.
“There are lifelong, permanent immigration consequences,” said Gomez, one of the authors of the bill in the House.
“It isn’t an issue in the 18 states where this is the law,” she added. She also noted that green-card holders, or permanent residents, are already eligible for a driver’s license but cannot vote.
Police groups have expressed support for the bill. They argue 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.
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. 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,” they said.
Gov. Tim Walz supports the legislation.
The bill cleared the House Transportation Committee Tuesday and will remain in the Senate Transportation Committee for further discussion.
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Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and reported for The Daily Caller.
Photo “Minnesota Driver’s License” by Minnesota Department of Public Safety.