Latest Real ID debate focuses on immigrant licenses

A Minnesota Senate panel has advanced the Real ID compliance bill after a discussion of its potential impact on future driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants.

Such immigrants don’t currently have access to state licenses, but their advocates contend that the bill’s rule-making language would effectively close the door on that possibility.

During a State Government Finance and Policy and Elections committee hearing Thursday, Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake adjusted the language in his bill that was causing concern. Pratt said the bill was not meant to address the immigrant issue.

“I believe that that issue is completely separate from making sure that we have a driver’s license that will be accepted for federal purposes,” Pratt said. “Those federal purposes would be for getting onto a military base, into a federal building and finally boarding an airplane.”

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Danielle Robinson Briand, a lawyer with the Center for Immigrant Justice, told lawmakers that the bill’s lack of a specific authorization for immigrant licenses was a missed an opportunity to improve public safety.

“Let us move beyond the false framing of this issue as guaranteeing airline travelers uninterrupted air travel,” Briand said. “This is a human rights issue and an obvious safety issue.”

The committee approved the amended bill on a voice vote. It’s next stop is the Senate Finance committee.

The House version of the bill is awaiting a floor vote.