Driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants are under discussion at the Minnesota Legislature — again. Previous attempts to allow the undocumented to drive legally have failed, but this year the measure should pass. As public safety officials have argued for years, the change would make roads safer.
Opponents of the proposal say that the licenses would enable voter fraud, cause homeland security risks and reward those who have already broken immigration law. However, in this case public safety interests trump other concerns.
In 2013, the Minnesota State Patrol reported that unlicensed drivers are twice as likely to be involved in fatal accidents as are drivers with valid licenses. That’s in part because the unlicensed have never had to meet the training, testing, practice driving or insurance requirements of other state motorists.
The latest version of the bill also responds to critics’ concerns. Illegal immigrants could use a foreign passport or birth certificate to obtain a driving card or a new state ID that would read “For identification only” on the back. The Secretary of State’s office and county auditors would train election judges not to accept the cards for same-day voter registration.
Allowing the undocumented to drive legally isn’t the only area in which the U.S. makes exceptions for them. Most come to America to work, and despite the fact that it is illegal to hire them, hundreds of U.S. companies employ them. The Internal Revenue Service assigns them tax ID numbers and accepts their tax payments.
The driver’s license dilemma is yet another result of America’s broken, outdated, schizophrenic immigration policies. The honest reality is that millions of workers and their families are here (an estimated 90,000 in Minnesota alone) — and the rest of us benefit from their work and their spending. Many already drive to get to their jobs. They are on our roads and should be subject to the same tests, rules and insurance requirements as any other driver.
That’s why the Legislature and governor should do the right thing this year — approve issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.