Minnesota House passes bill to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses

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The Minnesota House passed a bill that would make it possible for everyone living in the state to get a driver’s license, no matter their immigration status.

Minnesota changed state law in 2003 making it so undocumented immigrants could not obtain a license. As greater Minnesota relies more on immigrant labor, many argue that granting them driver’s licenses helps the economy and makes roads safer.

For now, a majority of House members agree. The bill passed Friday 74 to 52.

House File 1500 amends state law to say, “A person is not required the demonstrate United States citizenship or lawful presence in the United States in order to obtain a noncompliance driver’s license or identification card.”

The chief author is House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler.

“Make no mistake, immigrants whether they are documented or undocumented are Minnesotans,” said Rep. Winkler, DFL-Bemidji.  

It’s not just a legal issue, it’s a political issue too. With no national immigration reform, there are some lawmakers who do not want to reward illegal immigration.

“Let’s pass a system that brings them here legally and not incentive them to come here illegally and that’s what this bill does,” said Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe.

Twelve states already allow driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Advocates in Minnesota are still trying to push the issue into the passing lane.    

“Believe me when I say that as a police officer of over 40 years, this will really help our communities in so many ways, that’s it’s hard to explain,” said St. Paul Police Senior Commander John Lozoya. 

A similar bill in the Senate has yet to have a hearing. Leadership intends to also insert this bill into the transportation omnibus bill to force the Senate to consider it in end of session negotiations.