Matt Bush, FISM News
The Minnesota state Senate passed the “Driver’s License for All” bill by a 34-31 vote Wednesday. The bill would allow Minnesota’s estimated 81,000 undocumented immigrants to take the state driving test and receive a driver’s license.
The most current version of the bill states that a person in Minnesota applying for an ID card or driver’s license “is not required to demonstrate United States citizenship or lawful presence in the United States.” Gov. Tim Walz (D) is expected to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.
“The right thing to do is keeping the people who are on our roads safe, and that’s what Minnesotans are asking for,” said Democratic Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, the bill’s sponsor. “Everyone across the state wants … people on our roads to have gotten the proper driver’s education that they need to have a proof of license so we can all be safe and live our lives with dignity.”
Republicans in the state are concerned that the new law could lead to increased instances of voter fraud or allow people to exploit the bill to commit other crimes.
“The threats to Minnesota and our country are studying this legislation, and they are going to gravitate to Minnesota so they can exploit the vulnerability that this body seeks to enact into law,” Republican state Sen. Eric Lucero said. “The bill as written has a loophole large enough to fly another airplane through, and we do not want that.”
The bill passed along party lines with no bipartisan support. After the November midterms, Democrats in the state enjoy what the Minnesota Legislature website calls a “legislative trifecta” as Democrats control the Governor’s seat, House, and Senate.
Without the need for bipartisanship, some in the state are concerned that policies like this one will pass unchecked, and without the need for compromise.
“This is a major policy bill and major policy change in the state of Minnesota. And with a one party-control in Minnesota, we are not seeing that compromise,” said Republican state Senator John Jasinski. “So the urgency to get this through is going to cause many, many issues across our state. Our deputy registrars have already been put to the test. And now we’re going to stress them more by passing this bill.”
Republican lawmakers in the state were not necessarily against the idea of allowing non-citizens the ability to obtain a driver’s license. In fact, according to CBS News, previous versions of this policy did receive bipartisan support.
In the five hours of debate leading up to the Senate vote, Republicans sought to amend the bill to add a way to differentiate the license of an undocumented immigrant to include the words “not for flying” and “not for voting.”
Democrats downplayed Republican concerns. Secretary of State Steve Simon said, “It’s not a new thing in Minnesota for people who aren’t eligible to vote, whether it’s 16 or 17-year-olds, whether it’s people who are under guardianship, whether it’s people who like my mother were immigrants to this country. I have every confidence in the Department of Public Safety, and the firewalls that they already have in place I’ve been using for a long, long time to make sure that people who aren’t supposed to vote, do not vote.”
After contentious election cycles and in light of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Simon’s and other Democrats’ assurances did little to make opponents of the bill feel at ease.