Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens Passes in Minnesota, Advances Elsewhere
FAIR Take | March 2023
Bills that would dangerously give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens have been moving through the process in several state legislatures recently. Most notably, a bill in Minnesota passed both chambers and will be signed into law. Meanwhile, similar bills have also been advancing in Indiana and Idaho, while one appears likely to have died in Arkansas.
As a result of the November elections, Democrats took control of the Minnesota Senate previously controlled by Republicans and gained their first trifecta (when the same party controls both legislative chambers and the governorship) in ten years. As a result, a Democrat priority, driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, became a priority.
In January, identical “Driver’s Licenses for All” bills were introduced in both the House and Senate. The House version was sponsored by Representative Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis), House File (HF) 4, while Senator Zaynab Mohamed sponsored Senate File (SF) 27. There were multiple committee hearings on these bills and FAIR staff submitted written testimony in opposition each time.
Republicans attempted to amend the bills during the process but were rebuffed. Rep. Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville) said that GOP lawmakers had “concerns with the ability for people to vote or do same-day registration once they have a photo ID … real concerns about that with the integrity of the election process, and the sanctity of the vote.”
HF 4 passed the House floor by a vote of 69-60 on January 30 along party lines. The House bill was considered in the Senate instead of the Senate version and passed on February 21 by a 34-31 vote, again along party lines. In the upper chamber, Senator John Jasinski (R-Faribault) stated that “the urgency to get this through is going to cause many, many issues across our state.”
Since the Senate amended the House bill, it has been sent back to the House to concur. The House will most likely pass the amended version and it is virtually guaranteed to be signed by Governor Tim Walz (D) since he promised at numerous rallies he attended that he supports giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
Minnesota will become the 19th state, plus the District of Columbia, to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
Each chamber of the Indiana legislature has seen driver’s license bills meet very different fates. Senate Bill (SB) 248, sponsored by Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen), would openly issue “driving privilege cards” to illegal aliens, as long as they have paid state taxes for at least one year, submitted fingerprints for a criminal background check, and have obtained auto insurance. SB 248 passed the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee on February 7. It was then referred to the Appropriations Committee where it has remained. Recently, SB 248 has been described as “discarded” or “sidelined.”
On the other hand, House Bill (HB) 1050, sponsored by Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie), is a much larger transportation bill that also contains many provisions unrelated to immigration. This bill has advanced rapidly with bipartisan support. While it purports not to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, it will issue driver’s licenses to individuals with “lawful status” including individuals paroled into the United States, those with a pending or approved application for asylum, those with a pending or approved application for temporary protected status, or those with an approved deferred action (DACA) status. Legislators may think these are narrow exceptions but they aren’t. By providing licenses to all these categories, HB 1050 will give driver’s licenses to everyone the Biden Administration is allowing into the country contrary to our immigration laws.
HB 1050 passed the House on February 20 by a vote of 92-5. The Senate referred it to its Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation, which has not yet scheduled a hearing on it.
The Indiana legislature is not scheduled to adjourn until April 27, so there is still plenty of time for HB 1050 to pass the Senate. If it does pass both chambers, Governor Eric Holcomb (R) would likely sign it since he recently penned an op-ed calling for Congress to give states the authority to sponsor more immigration. However, if he were to veto the bill, the legislature could override his veto with a simple majority in each chamber.
Senate Bill (SB) 1081, sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie (R- McCammon), was introduced on February 10 and would authorize “restricted driver’s licenses” for illegal aliens in Idaho, to be labeled “FOR DRIVING PURPOSES ONLY — NOT FOR VOTING OR OTHER OFFICIAL USES.”
On February 28, after a lengthy hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee, the Committee voted 5-3 to advance the bill to the Senate floor without a recommendation for passage. Despite hearing opposition from multiple sheriffs, the Idaho Sheriffs Association and Angel Mom Hilary Caraway, who lost her son Connor to an illegal-alien drunk driver, Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) said she was uncertain on the issue. She pushed to send the bill to the Senate floor saying, “it might need the wisdom of the whole body as we debate and deliberate this.” Unsurprisingly, big agriculture and other business interests, always seeking cheap illegal labor, as well as open-borders groups, testified in the bill’s favor.
Republicans have a trifecta in Idaho. Republicans control the Senate 28-7 and the House 59-11. Therefore, in order for this bill to pass, it will need support from a large number of Republicans. It is unclear where Gov. Brad Little (R) stands on issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens although in the past he has met with Sen. Guthrie, the bill’s sponsor, to discuss the issue. If the governor vetoed the bill, it is unlikely both chambers would have the two-thirds needed in each chamber to override the veto.
A bill to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens in Arkansas now appears likely to die when the legislature adjourns.
HB 1429, sponsored by Rep. Jay Richardson (D-Fort Smith), was introduced on February 14. It was scheduled for three hearings before the House Public Transportation Committee in a span of two weeks. During the first committee hearing on February 16, it was narrowly defeated. However, it was amended on the House floor and returned to Committee. The second hearing on February 16 was canceled. On February 28, the bill was referred for additional input on its potential fiscal impact.
The Arkansas legislature is currently scheduled to adjourn on March 9. Unless the legislature votes to extend the legislative session, which requires a 2/3 supermajority vote, the bill is unlikely to pass both chambers. In this bill’s brief life, it was pushed surprisingly hard for a bill sponsored by a House minority member; however, three of its ten cosponsors were Republicans.