One of several reasons Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants a second special session of the 2018 Legislature is to allow undocumented immigrants access to drivers’ licenses. In a letter to legislative leaders last week, Dayton sought that change in the interest of public safety.
On this matter, the governor is right. All Minnesotans will be safer if more motorists are tested and trained before getting behind the wheel. As law enforcement and transportation agencies confirm, having so many untrained drivers on the road brings greater risk of crashes.
Opponents of the proposal say that those who are in the U.S. illegally have already broken one of our laws and should not be allowed any legal privileges. They say the licenses would enable voter fraud, cause homeland security risks and unfairly reward law breakers. However, in this case, public safety takes precedence and the other concerns can be addressed.
An estimated 90,000 undocumented immigrants live in Minnesota. Most come here to work and many end up driving to their jobs. Thousands of undocumented people are driving U.S. roads. That’s why 12 other states have rules that allow them legal driver status. Those states understand the dangers posed by having so many unlicensed motorists.
In fact, four years ago, the Minnesota State Patrol reported that unlicensed drivers are twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as are drivers with valid licenses. The unlicensed have never had to meet the driver’s education and insurance requirements of other motorists.
As for concerns about voter or other kinds of identity fraud, the undocumented could receive licenses that could not be used for purposes other than driving and general identification. Elections officials could be trained not to accept the cards for same-day voter registration.
The driver’s license dilemma is one result of this nation’s broken federal immigration policy. Though it remains against the law to hire undocumented workers, the vast majority of undocumented immigrants come here because businesses will hire them. And the Internal Revenue Service assigns tax ID numbers and accepts their tax payments.
Those are all good reasons for the Legislature to rethink current Minnesota rules and move to approve driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.