ST. PAUL -- An administrative law judge refused Friday to let Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver bypass the normal process for enacting new rules in his attempt to restrict driver's licenses for foreigners.
"The immediacy of the threat, insofar as it can be addressed through drivers' licenses, has not been shown," administrative law Judge George Beck wrote in his memorandum.
Weaver had wanted the plan approved within 14 days through emergency administrative rule-making, arguing quick action was needed to stop terrorists. Establishing new rules can take half a year or more.
The proposal would require more proof of residency from driver's license applicants, and specify that noncitizens be licensed for only as long as their visas allow them to be in the country. Licenses would be denied to foreigners who apply less than 60 days from visa expiration.
Currently, the state must grant a license to a foreigner for four years even if his or her visa expires within days.
Sara Schlauderaff, an assistant commissioner under Weaver, said the decision was disappointing but not a huge setback. The agency will consider an appeal while it moves ahead with a rulemaking steps it had already begun.
"We still think it's the right thing to do," she said of the license changes. "We want to protect Minnesotans as best we can as soon as we can."
Other states have made similar changes in their laws since Sept. 11, but Weaver's proposal has drawn protest from immigrant and civil liberties groups.
Minnesota Civil Liberties Union executive director Charles Samuelson wrote in a letter to state officials this week that the proposal was "unworkable" and would have a negative impact on immigrants and their employers. He added that it would do nothing to make Minnesotans safer.
Weaver's latest proposal did not include one of the most controversial provisions from his initial plan: color-coding foreigners' licenses to alert police to check their immigration status.
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