On Feb. 18, Minnesotans and state lawmakers kicked off the 2021 initiative to provide driver’s licenses for all regardless of immigration status. Video of the press conference featuring Minnesotans’ personal stories is available here.
"By denying the right to a driver's license we're denying people living in our communities access to jobs and opportunity, endangering public safety, and criminalizing families' efforts to participate in civic life,” added state Representative Aisha Gomez (DFL - Minneapolis). “This denial hurts families, businesses, and all of Minnesota. We have worked on this issue for years and shown repeatedly how this would benefit our state, let's finally make roads safer, and reject a politics that would divide people living side by side as neighbors."
All Minnesotans used to be able to get a driver’s license regardless of immigration status, until the rule was changed in 2003, making it impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain a legal driver’s license.
“I have lots of family and friends in MN who don’t have a license and are constantly at risk of being torn apart from their families by ICE. This is a form of torture and punishment. A license should NOT be treated as a privilege that some politicians use to divide certain communities,” said Carlos Urrutia, an ISAIAH faith leader. “We should make sure undocumented immigrants have a driver’s license under a belief that we are created and loved by God and we are deserving of being connected to our families no matter who we are or what our immigration status is.”
The driver’s license proposal is supported by a statewide coalition of non-profit organizations, unions, immigrants’ rights advocates, community-based groups and collectives, faith-based organizations, workers’ rights advocates, and businesses. In 2019, the Minnesota House made history by passing the same legislation for the first time.
“All Minnesotans should be able to work, live and take care of their families, but COVID-19 is making it even harder for workers and families to just get by,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, the bill’s chief author. “Providing a driver’s license to everyone who can pass a test and buy insurance will improve public safety for everyone, help the state economy, and treat our immigrant communities with dignity and respect. Immigrants come here for the promise of freedom and opportunity, and they contribute to the culture, economy, and community of our state. They are bold, brave, and hard working; and they are among the people who have sacrificed and risked the most to keep all of us healthy and safe during the pandemic.”
Public hearings about House File 1163 are in the process of being scheduled and will be announced soon.