House Real ID bill includes unnecessary, harmful language

A bill to bring our state’s driver’s licenses up to required federal Real ID standards (House File 3) is currently making its way through the committee process in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Real ID compliant licenses are already required to gain access to certain federal facilities and nuclear power plants, and early next year they will be needed to board airplanes, which has the bill on a speedy path to the House floor.

The bill would create a two-track system under which two kinds of Minnesota driver’s licenses would be available: one type would be Real ID-compliant, the other would not. But the House bill includes harmful and unnecessary language that prohibits unauthorized immigrants from receiving driver’s licenses. House File 3 requires applicants to demonstrate lawful status to obtain a non-Real ID license. This language is unnecessary to implement Real ID, and is duplicative: unauthorized immigrants are already unable to receive driver’s licenses in Minnesota due to an administrative rule change made in 2003.

Policymakers should leave immigration policies out of the Real ID bill. In fact, given the state’s tightening labor market and upcoming labor shortage, policymakers should instead take steps to expand access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. Minnesota’s current policy excludes immigrants from fully contributing to the economy in a time where Minnesota is increasingly relying on all members of our communities to fill critical jobs.

The administrative rule restricting driver’s license access means that about 82,000 Minnesotans are unable to reach their full economic potential. Driver’s licenses are often necessary for Minnesotans to have reliable transportation to a wider range of jobs and to work more hours. With wider access to jobs, people can more easily find employment that matches their qualifications and pays competitive wages.

Last year the Senate passed a bipartisan Real ID bill that met requirements for federal compliance with Real ID and did not include language addressing access to driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants. Legislators should pass a Real ID bill that does not include duplicative restrictions against unauthorized immigrants receiving driver’s licenses that prevent them from fully contributing to the state’s economy.

-Clark Biegler

About Clark Biegler

Clark Biegler is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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