Bill to mark foreigner’s licenses clears Minnesota House

by Erin Madsen

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would require foreigners with temporary visas to have state driver’s licenses marked with their visa’s expiration date. The house approved the bill by a 106-25 vote.

Rep. Rich Stanek, R-Maple Grove, the bill’s author, described the “status check” legislation as a “common sense approach to public safety in Minnesota,” while other representatives criticized the bill’s effectiveness and constitutionality.

Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the legislation would stigmatize people and threaten community relationships with law enforcement officials.

“(The Minneapolis Police Department) doesn’t want to destroy trust,” Thissen said, adding that police will be responsible for checking people’s temporary statuses with the Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Stanek said the bill’s goal is to protect people, not scrutinize them.

“It’s not discrimination,” he said. ” Ö It’s good public policy to make the distinction between who is here Ö permanently or temporarily.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, said the bill “singles out somebody outside our body of politics,” which he said is unconstitutional.

“It’s no different than a scarlet letter Ö or a yellow star,” Ellison said.

But Rep. Eric Lipman, R-Lake Elmo, said the comparison between people with temporary visa statuses and Jewish Holocaust victims was “grotesquely inappropriate.”

Lipman said the legislation ensures temporary visa holders “do their duty to check in with the federal sovereign.”

Stanek said similar legislation has been passed in 28 states and affects a small percentage of people.

“It’s not earthshaking or groundbreaking,” he said.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said the increased public safety promised by the bill’s proponents is misleading because identification documents are easily altered.

“Any terrorist worth their salt will get fake documents,” she said. “It is just too easy to falsify.”

“Status check” driver’s license requirements were implemented under emergency rules last July and expire after two years.

Erin Madsen welcomes comments at [email protected]