The Minnesota House voted Friday to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, setting the stage for a confrontation with the GOP-controlled state Senate.
The 74-52 vote marked a victory for the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) Party and Gov.Tim Walz(D), who prioritized the issue for the legislative session, theStar Tribune reported. Two Republicans in the state House voted for the bill, while two DFLers opposed it.
Some Republicans in the state's upper chamber say the bill welcomes undocumented immigration and could lead to voter fraud.
"Immigrants, whether they are documented or undocumented, are Minnesotans. They are part of the fabric of our communities,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), according to the paper. "It is time that we helped take away this shadow of not having a driver’s license."
"Minnesota shouldn’t be in the business of incentivizing illegal behavior, and by allowing illegal and undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses, that’s exactly what our state would be doing," state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) contended.
To assuage Republican concerns, Democrats included a stipulation in the legislation mandating the licenses would carry explicit warnings that they cannot be used for proof of identification at polling stations. Minnesota has no photo ID requirements at polling stations.
Should the legislation survive the GOP-controlled state Senate and secure Walz's signature, Minnesota would become the 13th state to give licenses to residents who cannot provide proof of their legal status.
Immigrants were able to get driver’s licenses in Minnesota regardless of their legal status until 2003, when the law was changed in light of post-9/11 security concerns, the Star Tribune noted.
Proponents of the bill said it would help restore the opportunity for undocumented migrants to live productive lives in the state.
"It’s common sense," state Rep. Samantha Vang (D) told the Star Tribune. "This will allow people to simply open a bank account, to drive safely on the road to their jobs, to their school."
"This is about dignity, it is about respect, it is about inclusion," state Rep. Mohamud Noor, a refugee from Somalia, added.