Lawmaker says give worker ID cards to state's illegal immigrants
WILLMAR -- Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Wilmar, said he'd like to see Minnesota offer worker ID cards to illegal immigrants.
Doing so would allow "hard-working" undocumented immigrants who are already living here to get "out of the shadows" and work at businesses that need, and want, them.
The Willmar Republican said employer-sponsored identification cards would remove the "criminal aspect" of being here to work.
It would also reduce identity theft because illegal immigrants could use their own identity to get a job legitimately while they work toward becoming legal citizens.
"They're working hard in our state and we need them here," Gimse said. "My hope is that this eliminates a lot of the need for illegal activity."
Gimse, who met privately with community leaders last month in Willmar to discuss immigration issues, said he was shocked with the amount of identity theft that happens when illegal immigrants try to get jobs here.
Making worker IDs available would "stop the aggravated forgery, the ID theft and the related problems that go along with it because these people just want to come here work," Gimse said.
He said businesses are "doing everything they can to make good hiring decisions" but forged documents are "so sophisticated" that it's difficult to tell the fake ones from the real ones.
Gimse said if employers question documents, or don't hire someone because they question the legitimacy of documents, they can be scrutinized for racial profiling. "They're between a rock and a hard spot."
Under his plan, undocumented workers could use the IDs to get a job, obtain a driver's license and be given two years to become legal citizens. If the state had worker IDs, Gimse said he would support the Dream Act that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state rates to attend state colleges and universities.
In response to critics who say illegal immigrants should be deported, Gimse said there is "no practical method of rounding them up and sending them back." And besides, said Gimse, immigrants are a "valuable asset and a valuable part of our community."
Gimse said the worker ID plan will be one of the proposals he would like to put in the hopper when the Legislature convenes in February. He said other document security options, like driver's licenses that incorporate digital biometric features such as fingerprints, would be another document security measure to consider.
Gimse will also propose that a working group, called the Minnesota Legislative Caucus on Immigration, be created to gather information and help resolve issues with illegal immigration.
He also wants the House and Senate to create standing committees on immigration.
The Legislature "must become engaged in the immigration debate immediately," he said. "We need to stop burying our head in the sand and start taking some action on this front."
He said the Legislature currently has "no platform" to discuss immigration issues. Having a standing committee would provide that venue for discussion and action. The committee could also advocate for immigrants, Gimse said.
By rights, Gimse said the federal government should be solving problems with illegal immigration but have failed to do so. "But we can't stand idly by while they're in gridlock," he said.