|Picture Source: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/ncr/outreach/ncr_hello-neighbor|
Every seat in the House Committee on Transportation Policy was taken last Wednesday, and even more people crammed into the aisles. Most of the people were Latino and held pink signs that said “Make Minnesota streets safer, support H.F. 348” on one side and “Licencias para todos” on the other (Licenses for all).
House File 348 is a proposal that would allow all Minnesota residents, regardless of their immigration status, to get a Minnesota driver’s license. Immigration status did not affect one’s ability to get a driver’s license in Minnesota until the law changed in 2004 to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting licenses.
Several testifiers on Wednesday were members of a Latino community in south Minneapolis who explained to the committee members how difficult it is to live without a driver’s license. There were stories from parents who had to tell their children they couldn’t play after school sports and from families that were split because one parent had moved to live closer to work.
Robert Lilligren, Vice President of the Minneapolis City Council, also testified, saying that the City of Minneapolis supports H.F. 348 because allowing undocumented immigrants to have valid driver’s licenses would make Minneapolis streets safer, since more drivers would have passed a driving test and have insurance. He also expressed the need to start incorporating immigrants into the Minneapolis community right now rather than waiting on an immigration process that can take years to complete.
In 2010, immigrants made up 8.3% of Minnesota’s workforce and undocumented immigrants alone paid $81.7 million in state and local taxes. The Latino community is a vital part of our economy and culture, and allowing people of any immigration status to obtain a Minnesota driver’s license would provide some relief to hard working Minnesotans.
Ronnie Schwenn, UMTC MPIRG Member
*Source: City of Minneapolis - Neighborhood and Community Relations - Latino Engagement Task Force