Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens in Minnesota a Distinct Possibility
FAIR Take | January 2023
After over a decade of pushing driver’s licenses for illegal aliens in Minnesota, open-borders advocates could see their efforts become a reality. As a result of November’s election, Democrats now have a trifecta, controlling the governor’s office and both legislative chambers for the first time since 2013. This trifecta makes it more likely that granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens will pass where it failed in the past. Already a priority in the House, House File (HF) 4, has been introduced and scheduled for a hearing on January 10.
HF 4 was introduced by Representatives Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis) and Maria Isa Pérez-Vega (DFL- St. Paul. HF 4 creates a new category of “noncompliant driver’s licenses” which will give an applicant who is a Minnesota resident a driver’s license even if that individual does not have “lawful presence” in the United States.
Championing the push for driver’s licenses in the Senate is the bill’s author Senator Zaynab Mohamed (DFL-Minneapolis) who introduced the so-called “Driver’s Licenses for All” bill, Senate File (SF) 27, a companion to HF 4. According to Senator Mohamed, “[o]ur economy depends on the labor of immigrants, yet our government prohibits them from driving. Restoring immigrants’ rights to obtain a driver’s license isn’t just the right thing to do – it will also benefit our economy, make our roads safer, and make life easier for our undocumented neighbors and their families.”
Setting aside the issue that aliens who have entered the country illegally are not authorized to work in the United States, granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens does not make our roads safer. In 2018, a study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found drivers without a valid license are responsible for 20 percent of all automobile accidents. This same study found that five percent of the drivers involved in fatal car accidents were unlicensed drivers. Ninety-five percent of the drivers involved in fatal car crashes were licensed drivers or drivers whose licenses were suspended, revoked, expired, canceled, or denied. Therefore, any correlations between road safety and unlicensed drivers are tenuous at best.
Moreover, providing driver’s licenses to those in the United States illegally is a public safety and a national security risk. While not every individual who enters the United States unlawfully poses a public safety or national security risk, those individuals who have not entered through ports of entry have not been subject to stringent background checks or face-to-face interviews to determine whether they pose a threat. Nineteen of the 9-11 terrorists had 30 driver’s licenses and ID cards among them. According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Fiscal Year 2022, 98 individuals on the terrorist watch list were encountered on the southern border between ports of entry. Additionally, U.S. CBP arrested 29,021 individuals attempting to cross the border with criminal convictions. Among those arrested were 751 criminal aliens with gang affiliations, including 312 MS-13 members.
After 9-11, Minnesota was one of the first states to recognize that state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards were instrumental in the terrorists’ ability to attack the United States. In fact, Minnesota has been at the forefront of driver’s-license security for years. In the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the legislature not only required U.S. citizenship or legal presence to be eligible for a license, but authorized license “status checks” for those only lawfully in the country temporarily. By administrative rule, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) then tied license expiration dates to visa expiration dates, and detailed the process for conducting those status checks.
While it appears that many legislators in the Minnesota House and Senate seem ready to forget the lessons they learned from 9-11, it is not a foregone conclusion. Democrats have only a single-person advantage in the Minnesota Senate. Moreover, Senate President Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) cautioned that this legislation could take time. According to Senator Champion, the state budget is the legislature’s main priority.
If legislation to provide driver’s licenses to illegal aliens does pass the legislature, Governor Tim Walz (D) would be almost certain to sign it. He spoke in support of the legislation at a “Driver’s Licenses for All” rally on the opening day of the legislature.