People living in Minnesota without legal immigration status can now begin the process of getting their driver’s license by making an appointment for their written driver’s test, state officials announced at a news conference Thursday.
Around 81,000 people are expected to be eligible under the state’s new law — dubbed “Driver’s License for All.” They can now make appointments to apply but won’t be able to actually get a license until the law goes into effect Oct. 1.
“We’re incredibly proud to be a part of a handful of states that offer driver’s license for all,” said Pong Xiong, Driver and Vehicle Services Director at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, at the news conference. “And the first step to getting your driver’s license is to pass that written test.”
The new law removes the requirements for applicants to show legal presence, said Jody-Kay Peterson, the department’s Driver Services Program Director.
When asked about any risk for deportation applicants may face, Peterson said the department will not submit the names or personal information of applicants to any immigration law enforcement.
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed the measure into law this year. It reverses a 2003 change by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, barring people without legal status from getting licenses, citing security concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Supporters of Minnesota’s new law say it will improve public safety by ensuring that all drivers are licensed and insured, and have taken driver’s education courses. Backers included law enforcement, faith, business and immigrant rights groups.
Opponents say it will encourage illegal immigration.
Applicants must still pass written and road tests and attest to their address in Minnesota. They won’t be asked for proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status. But they must provide identifying documents such as an unexpired foreign passport, a consular identification document with a photograph or a certified birth certificate issued by a foreign jurisdiction.
Eighteen other states grant licenses to residents regardless of immigration status, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.
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