Much-awaited legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (HF97) was shot down in the House Transportation Committee as the 2015 legislative session hurtled to a close. All House Republicans voted against incorporating the language into legislation at a 5-5 vote.
“The bill is included in a transportation bill, and the only thing that the house has to do is to agree with the bill that is being proposed by the Senate. The House simply has no excuse not to do this this year. They made a commitment last year. They made a bipartisan letter making this their priority and now they have to deliver on it. That letter has been a public letter that every person in the community is aware of, and they promised us that every year they will accept this provision and the provision is being proposed this year. The letter states that this provision would be of top priority this year,” said Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL District 63) on Friday prior to the bill being voted down.
This is the second time the bill has been shot down in the House; in March the bill failed to reach committee and was postponed for voting until May. They had only needed 3 votes this time, but House Minority Speaker Kurt Daudt led the Republicans against the bill.
Currently, more than 34,500 Minnesotans with temporary visas or deportation reprieves under a 2012 Obama program have driver’s licenses that say “Check status” and list their visa expiration date. Advocacy groups have been pushing the issue since legislators banned undocumented immigrants from getting driver’s licenses in 2001. Mesa Latina organized a rally in front of the Capitol rotunda to rally supporters and legislators for the cause.
Rep. Karen Clark- DFL Minneapolis, led an effort to get a similar bill through the transportation committee in 2013, but it stalled in the House after passing the Senate. She stressed that undocumented immigrants had been able to drive legally for years in Minnesota, but that only changed in the aftermath of 9/11 during Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration (MinnPost).
“A lot of families need licenses for the kids… they need to go to school, to go to the grocery store. I have my license, but a lot of my family members need drivers licenses,” said Twin Cities Area resident Arlene Rodriguez.