Bill to OK driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants advances in Minnesota

Minnesota lawmakers advanced legislation Friday that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, highlighting the debate in the state over immigration and access to social benefits.

“Immigrants, whether they are documented or undocumented, are Minnesotans. They are part of the fabric of our communities,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “It is time that we helped take away this shadow of not having a driver’s license.”

“Immigrants, whether they are documented or undocumented, are Minnesotans. They are part of the fabric of our communities. It is time that we helped take away this shadow of not having a driver’s license.”

— Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, a Democrat

FLORIDA BILL WOULD ALLOW ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO GET DRIVER'S LICENSES

The 74-52 vote came after nearly five hours of highly charged debate in the state's Democrat-led House. The bill now advances to the Republican-controlled state Senate, where some say the plan would incentivize illegal immigration, voter fraud and reward people who violate the law, the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

GOP state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen said the bill would “undermine our current values.”

“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,” he said.

“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.”

— GOP state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen

MORE THAN A MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS SCORED CALIFORNIA DRIVER'S LICENSES, STATE DMV ANNOUNCES

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka called the bill’s chances of passing “small,” the paper reported.

Supporters argue that granting driver’s licenses to immigrants, regardless of their legal status, will lead to safer roads and let the estimated 95,000 undocumented immigrants living the state live and work with dignity.

“It’s common sense,” said Democratic Rep. Samantha Vang. “This will allow people to simply open a bank account, to drive safely on the road to their jobs, to their school.”

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Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the bill is “one step closer to making Minnesota a sanctuary state.”

Should the measure advance through the state Legislature, Minnesota would become the 13th state in the nation to provide drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. Prior to 2003, immigrants – whether living in the country legally or not – could obtain driver’s licenses by passing a driving test and purchasing insurance.