Minnesota ‘Driver’s Licenses for All’ signed into law

Story by NBC affiliate KARE 11
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signs 'Driver's License for All' bill.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signs 'Driver's License for All' bill.(KARE 11)
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 2:57 PM CST
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ST PAUL, Minn. (KARE11) — For many Minnesotans, a driver’s license is simply a rectangular piece of plastic that gathers dust in a purse or wallet, pulled out only when writing a check, conducting a transaction or during a rare encounter with a law enforcement officer.

The crowd gathered Tuesday morning at the St. Paul Armory will likely tell you a license means more - much more. They cheered wildly as Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the Drivers Licenses for All bill into law, a piece of legislation designed to both provide economic opportunity and free undocumented immigrants from the fear they will be forced from the place they call home.

“This broad coalition of folks who call Minnesota home,” Walz said, crediting the lawmakers and citizen leaders who have spent two decades pushing Drivers Licenses for All over daunting hurdles. “Who understand that making good policy and treating each individual with dignity makes all of us safer, and makes our state even stronger.”

House co-sponsor Rep. Aisha Gomez (D-Mpls.) noted that while administrations and lawmakers have changed in the 20 years since then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty instructed the Department of Public Safety to require proof of lawful admission into the U.S. to obtain a driver’s license, those behind the movement have been present, and steadfast.

“What has been here all along is this movement of organized people making demands in solidarity about human dignity and what communities deserve,” Gomez insisted. “This is how change happens in this world.”

Supporters say the ability to obtain a legal driver’s license, beginning Oct. 1, will create more employment opportunities for an estimated 80,000 undocumented Minnesotans, improve road safety and ease fears of deportation during routine interactions with law enforcement and government agencies.

Driver’s licenses are also key to obtaining insurance, housing, and other essentials that require a license.

Walz noted on Tuesday that having a license is especially important for undocumented workers in greater Minnesota, where there is less public transportation structure to get them to jobs and necessary appointments.

Opponents of the measure cited concerns that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented residents will lead to illegal voting, but Walz scoffed at that assertion, insisting there is not one case in the last 20 years of a driver’s license being used to engage in voter fraud.

So far 18 other states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico grant licenses to undocumented residents, something Minnesota did before 2003.

Story by NBC affiliate KARE 11.