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Coalition pushes for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

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A legislative committee hearing Wednesday afternoon was packed with supporters of a proposal to allow people living in Minnesota without documentation to obtain a driver's license.

Many people testified at the hearing, asking lawmakers to vote on a bill that would make driver's licenses available to Minnesota's thousands of undocumented immigrants, according to Session Daily.

Some tearfully told the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee of the difficulties they and their family members face without a driver's license.

Maria Negreros said she risks breaking the law each day to drive her children to preschool.

Anna Serrano told lawmakers her parents own a new restaurant, but must rely on others for rides because they can't legally drive, the Daily notes.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, would remove the requirement that a driver present proof of U.S. residency to get a license or a state ID card.

Hamilton said the issue shouldn't get bogged down in the divisive politics over immigration, calling it primarily a matter of safety.

“We would have an individual who would go through trainings, would receive a license, then purchase car insurance and drive on our roads,” he said.

A broad coalition of groups supports the measure, including business and labor organizations, law enforcement and the Catholic Church.

But others, including the conservative Minnesota Majority group, oppose the idea, saying such licenses could be used for voter fraud and and would reward those who are breaking the law, the Star Tribune reports.

To address some of those concerns, proponents have suggested a new type of card for the affected drivers, which would include the words "for driving only" on the back, according to the Star Tribune.

Similar measures have been debated in previous sessions but have not advanced very far. This year, the measure's chances are uncertain despite support from a large number of House Republicans.

Wednesday's committee hearing was for informational purposes only and the committee hasn't scheduled a vote. And House Speaker Kurt Daudt has said he opposes the bill and doesn't plan to allow a House floor vote if it would get to that point.

According to Session Daily, 10 states as well as Washington DC and Puerto Rico already allow driver's licenses without regard to immigration status.

It's estimated that about 90,000 undocumented immigrants live in Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.

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