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Our View: Reject misguided ‘driver’s licenses for all’ — again

From the editorial: "Those who choose to be here illegally ... shouldn't be accommodated with things like state-issued driver's licenses."

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There’s little arguing that all Minnesotans “should have access to the same opportunities and resources” or that a “driver’s license is a necessity to maintain a livelihood and lead a safe, productive life,” as COPAL MN, a Minneapolis nonprofit for Latinos, argued in a media advisory on Friday.

But such arguments, while scoring easy emotional and political points, aren't really the issue when it comes to the annual push at the Minnesota Legislature to grant driving privileges to immigrants who are in the state illegally. The issue, rather, is following the law and the protocols in place. And Minnesota's law prohibiting those illegally in the state and in the country from obtaining driver's licenses came originally from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which had security soundly in mind following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Those who choose to be here illegally can be encouraged to pursue appropriate channels to obtain citizenship first. Their place outside the law shouldn't be accommodated with things like state-issued driver's licenses.

The Legislature, even with its DFL majorities, can again reject so-called “driver’s licenses for all” legislation this session. Minnesota lawmakers can resist joining the 18 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, which already allow those without legal status to obtain driver’s licenses.

About 95,000 people without legal immigration status live in Minnesota, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s approximately 1.6% of the state’s population.

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As Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said in 2019 during a previous iteration of this debate, The “concern (is with) rewarding people that are here illegally. Let's focus first on the problems we have for people who are here legally,"

This year’s proposal is especially egregious, as Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, argued in his weekly newsletter, also on Friday. His colleagues and all Minnesotans can take to heart the comments of the assistant Senate minority leader.

“Even if you are supportive of this idea in general, the bill Democrats are pushing is a really bad one,” Eichorn wrote to his constituents. “It presents a real, significant threat to national security. The license itself (would be) a state-issued identification, identical to a typical driver’s license. So bad actors could use these IDs to get onto military bases or into federal (buildings) across the country.”

In addition, the current legislative proposal “requires that data … not be shared with other agencies, like the Secretary of State. So, when combined with an automatic voter registration effort, it seriously compromises our elections,” Eichorn opined. “It diminishes the meaning and value of our licenses. Fundamentally, it is a document that validates someone’s name, address, and date of birth. It has many important functions. This bill allows the use of more documents, certification from foreign courts of ‘competent jurisdiction,’ and prevents information sharing among state agencies. No matter what you think of the idea, this is a bad bill.”

And a bad idea that can be rejected once again in St. Paul — while the emotional and politically fueled debates over immigration continue to roar at the national level and at our southern border.

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