(NOTE: An earlier version of this report contained incomplete information on the Senate Real ID bill, and incorrectly said that undocumented immigrants can obtain Minnesota driver’s licenses.)
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota Senate Republican leaders say their bill to create a Real ID for state drivers does not ban driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
The bill, which was approved by a Senate committee Wednesday, directs the Department of Public Safety to create rules for Real ID but not for illegal drivers.
“The Senate bill does not ban driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants,” said Katie Fulkerson, the spokeswoman for Senate Republicans. “The Senate bill is silent on the issue. Our position is that issue should be discussed completely separately.”
Gov. Mark Dayton is asking fellow Democrats to oppose the Senate measure unless it includes a provision allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
Minnesota is home to an estimated 90,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. Many of them drive here, but top lawmakers wonder why the state should allow it.
“Why I use the word ‘illegal’ instead of ‘undocumented’ — it’s illegal,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) said. “If you’re here illegally, then you shouldn’t expect to get benefits from us related to that.”
Real ID are high security driver’s licenses the government created and mandated after 9/11. It’s a license you’re going to need starting next year just to get on an airplane.
“Beginning on Jan. 26, 2018, our standard license — which will be classified as ‘non-compliant‘ — will not be accepted by the TSA for boarding a commercial aircraft,” Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) said.
Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) — the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee — says it’s a public safety issue — that no one should be driving without proper training or insurance, or feeling as if they’ll be arrested.
“If we deny driver’s licenses, what we are doing is pushing people to the margins,” he said. “So that if they are a victim of a crime or witness a crime, or they are driving to and from work, there’s a public safety issue.”
If the Minnesota Legislature does not pass a bill creating new Real ID high security licenses, Minnesotans will not be able to board a commercial airliner without additional identification such as a passport.