Immigrant driver’s license bill moves on to March 16 hearing


Members of the Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Division of the Minnesota House of Representatives met March 10 to hear testimony on a bill that would change Minnesota drivers license requirements. House Bill 1718, presented by co-author Rep. Karen Clark, would modify application procedures and requirements for individuals, allowing even undocumented residents to qualify for a license. 

Next hearing: Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, March 16 at 12:30 p.m. in Room 15. If approved will then go to the House Transportation and Finance Committee. 

According to Patricia McCormack, Director of the Driver and Vehicle Services division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, an individual is required to have “legal presence” in the state to qualify for a license.  Immigration documents, a valid driver’s license or a certified United States birth certificate are among the documents used by the state to authenticate a person’s identity.  According to McCormack, identification cards and documents from foreign governments are not accepted forms of ID because all countries have different requirements.

“A lot of these identification cards are easy to replicate and they may not have security features, so we cannot authenticate that individual,” she said.

Under the provisions of the new bill, an ID from the individual’s home country and proof of residency, such as a Minnesota tax document, would be accepted to prove one’s identity.  Some legislators were concerned about immigration issues.

“Saying they are who they say they are is one thing, but legal or illegal is a different situation,” Rep. Marty Seifert said.

The DVS supports the current policy of legal presence.

“Most states are trying to abide by the immigration laws and also trying to be able to license their drivers,” McCormack said.

Witnesses in favor of the bill included Jovita Morales of Mujeres en Liderazgo, attorney Bruce Nestor, and Jonatan Gudino, who works at the University of Minnesota. Nestor urged committee members “not to get caught up in the rhetoric and politics of immigration,” but to focus more on public safety, the potential revenue benefits and the historic importance of being the fifth state to implement this change.

“I view this as a public safety issue,” Rep. Clark said.  “We would not be the first state to do this.”

Of the 16 members of the committee eight voted yes, five voted no, one abstained, and two were not present.  After the vote, members of Mujeres en Liderazgo, who had come to support the bill, rejoiced in the hallways.

“This is an historic moment,” Rep. Clark said. “This is a first step.”