Minnesota’s New “Driver’s Licenses for All” Law Takes Effect
FAIR Take | October 2023
On October 1, Minnesota’s “Driver’s Licenses for All” went into effect. This law, which was signed by Governor Tim Walz on March 7, 2023, allows all residents of the state to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.
Minnesota’s legislature had barred most illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses 20 years ago by requiring applicants to show lawful status. However, when Democrats took control of the Minnesota Senate last year, consolidating their control of the House, the Senate and the Governor’s office, they prioritized legislation to reverse the law.
The “Driver’s License for All” law will now permit over 80,000 illegal aliens residing in the state to get driver’s licenses. Applicants may take the driver’s license examination in nine different languages, including Spanish, French, Arabic, Somali, Karen, and others. To protect illegal aliens who apply for licenses, the law prohibits:
- DMV officials from asking an applicant about his or her immigration status;
- State agencies from placing any special identifier on the license that indicates the license holder’s immigration status; and
- State agencies from providing data for civil immigration enforcement purposes (i.e. deportation)
At the law’s signing ceremony in March, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said, “I feel incredibly proud of Minnesota…We’re going to erase 20 years of a bad policy and lift up the dignity of all Minnesota.”
Even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal aliens, supporters of the “Driver’s Licenses for All” argued that the legislation will “improve public safety and allow people without legal status to continue contributing to the state’s economy.” During the debate in the legislature, business, agriculture and labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, testified the legislation was crucial for the state’s economy and expanding access to driver’s license is a practical step in addressing the state’s workforce shortage.
Moreover, there is little evidence to support the assertion that giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens will improve public safety. One community organizer who encouraged illegal aliens to take advantage of the new law witnessed multiple people take the test over two hours, only to fail. Another immigrant advocate complained about the complexity of the current test, arguing that it should be simplified for the illegal alien applicants “because many of them have already been driving and following the law.”
Because of this, Minnesota’s Driver and Vehicle Services are allowing for the written exams to be given orally by translators, in the applicant’s preferred language. According to state officials, the oral exams are designed to help people who have difficulty understanding the written exam—or who are illiterate altogether. The extent to which the State of Minnesota is working to give illegal aliens driver’s licenses demonstrates that the purpose of the law is not to improve public safety. If applicants are failing the written portions of the test, or cannot even read the test, how can they follow road signs?
There is also concern that illegal aliens in Minnesota who get a driver’s license may use it to vote. Earlier this year, Minnesota enacted a new law that provides automatic voter registration upon application for a driver’s license. While state law requires Minnesotans to be citizens to vote, there is a potential for illegal aliens to be registered and to vote especially since there aren’t any differences between the standard driver’s licenses and the ones received by illegal aliens. During the debate for the driver’s license bill, Representative John Petersburg said, “There are no safeguards included in this bill, which means the potential for voting and state program abuse is strong.”
With the passage of the “Driver’s Licenses for All” bill, Minnesota became the 19th state to have a law granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens (the District of Columbia also gives driver’s licenses to illegal aliens). Similarly, in Pennsylvania automatic voter registration legislation passed and now open-borders advocates are strongly pushing to pass a driver’s license bill for illegal aliens.