Debate over driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants tangles Real ID bill

Published 9:48 am Monday, March 13, 2017

By Minnesota Public Radio News

The issue of driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants remains a flashpoint in the debate over must-pass Real ID legislation.

The House passed a Real ID bill last month that put into state law a ban on issuing licenses to immigrants living in the state illegally.

Email newsletter signup

The Senate voted down its version of the bill last week.

At back-to-back press conferences at the airport on Sunday, Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said Republicans added language about unauthorized immigrants to a bill that doesn’t need it.

“They are putting language into the bill that adds new words to statute,” said Thissen. “That’s about as simple a test as there is about whether you’re bringing that issue into the debate or not.”

House Republicans blame Gov. Mark Dayton for encouraging Democratic opposition to a Real ID bill that prevents his administration from setting any rules that could allow licenses for unauthorized immigrants.

“The other issue with driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants should be a completely separate issue,” said House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers. “We need to pass this bill clean, we need to pass it fast and we need the Democrats to get on board and help us to pass this legislation that the people of Minnesota expect us to pass.”

Democrats said they agree Real ID legislation should pass and said they offered a bill last week that didn’t include the ban on unauthorized immigrant licenses, but Republicans failed to back it.

Minnesota is one of five states that hasn’t adopted the new driver’s licenses that meet uniform requirements passed after 9-11.