The Minnesota House voted in favor of a bill Friday afternoon that will allow illegal immigrants in the state to obtain valid driver’s licenses.
Under House File 1500, an individual will not be “required to demonstrate United States citizenship or lawful presence in the United States in order to obtain a noncompliant driver’s license or identification card.”
DFL legislators and their allies first unveiled the bill at a February press conference, which Archbishop Bernard Hebda spoke at in favor of the legislation. Hebda has called the bill an “important human rights test,” and said the Catholic Church sees it as “closely related to the question of dignity of human life.”
Prior to Friday’s floor vote, supporters of the bill called one last press conference to discuss its importance. Fr. Joseph Williams, pastor of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Minneapolis, spoke at the press conference on behalf of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
“Some of the people whom I pastor don’t have their papers, but all of them bear the image and likeness of God. And I’ve discovered over the years that they love this great country as much as I do, and they’re working hard, often in humble circumstances, to make it prosperous” Williams said Friday.
“The Catholic bishops of Minnesota feel this is a moral imperative and one that is long overdue. May God inspire our legislators to feel the same,” he added.
Several Democratic lawmakers delivered impassioned remarks in support of the bill on the House floor.
“This bill will enhance Minnesota’s public safety, it will improve our economy, and it will enhance human dignity for all of us in this state,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said Friday.
“I want to remind the body that what we’re talking about is families. We’re not talking about people who are committing crimes. We’re not talking about rapists and serial killers. We’re talking about families. And we’re talking about the protection of children. That should be at the heart of every single one of us sitting in this body,” Assistant Majority Leader Hodan Hassan (DFL-Minneapolis) said.
The bill passed in a vote of 74-52, and will now head to the Republican-controlled Senate for consideration. Supporters of the bill, who were gathered in the Capitol rotunda, could be heard cheering from inside the House chambers when the bill passed.
Rotunda is packed with folks across race, religion, and countries of origin who are calling on our legislators to restore the #freedom2drive to all Minnesotans. Let’s do this! #mnleg #MinnesotaIsReady pic.twitter.com/4WIkfNrnGI
— ISAIAHMN (@ISAIAHMN) April 5, 2019
Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal) said the bill is a corporate bailout and stops business leaders from needing to pressure Congress into passing meaningful immigration reform.
“This bill kicks the can down the road. People here without permission can’t easily lobby Congress to change the laws. We need the pressure from business owners and you’re removing that pressure today by bailing them out,” he said, claiming that the bill does nothing to make roads safer.
“This bill today allows corporations to continue to profit from hiring illegal immigrants and to pay them less than our legal workers,” Munson continued. “It does nothing to prevent the labor abuses of paying substandard wages and stealing wages from workers who cannot seek remedy from law enforcement due to their immigration status. It is shameful that Minnesota’s labor unions support this bill.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Minnesota License” by Minnesota Driver Vehicle Services.