Democratic lawmakers launched a push to reinstate the driver's licenses available to everybody in Minnesota, regardless of their immigration status.
Driver's licenses used to be obtainable for any state resident prior to 2003, when the rule changed and requires applicants provide proof of legal immigration status.
On Thursday, a coalition of Minnesota lawmakers, immigrants rights activists, unions, nonprofits and faith-based organizations launched a campaign to scrap this requirement, so that even immigrants in the country illegally can obtain a license.
Minnesota House Majority Leader Rep. Ryan Winkler said that all Minnesotans "deserve to be able to work, live and take care of their families."
"Ensuring everyone has access to driver’s licenses will improve public safety for everyone, grow the state economy, and treat our immigrant communities with dignity and respect," he added.
Meanwhile, Rep. Aisha Gomez (D-Minneapolis) said that preventing undocumented immigrants from getting a license endangers public safety and "criminalizes families' efforts to participate in civic life."
"It’s time to make our roads safer, and to reject a politics that would divide people living side by side as neighbors," she said.
Winkler and Gomez are introducing The License Access and Public Safety Act during Thursday’s House session.
Another attempt to repeal the rule
Two years ago, this very issue contributed to a budget standoff between Gov. Mark Dayton and House Republicans.
In 2017, Dayton vetoed legislative funding for the Minnesota House partly because the GOP attempted to put the ban on issuing licenses to immigrants – which is an administrative law – into state law.
As such, you can expect the latest effort by Democratic lawmakers to be opposed by Republicans in the House and the GOP-controlled Senate.
Republicans have previously opposed allowing undocumented immigrants obtaining licenses by citing concerns about voter fraud, while also suggesting it's unfairly rewarding people who have flouted the law by coming to American illegally.
Supporters, on the other hand, cite statistics from traffic police that show unlicensed drivers are twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as those with valid licenses. Allowing immigrants to get licenses would help improve their driving education and help them to meet insurance requirements.
It would also make it easier for currently unlicensed drivers to carry out their day-to-day commute, see family, and run errands.
The Star Tribune reported that in 2017 there were an estimated 90,000 undocumented immigrants in Minnesota, noting that while they are not able to get driver's licenses, they are given tax ID numbers and taxed by the IRS when they find work.