It’s Time to Support the Occupation at Governor Dayton’s Office over Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

I wanted to give a little context to the current occupation of Governor Dayton’s office by members of Mesa Latina, ISIAH, and other groups over a bill that would prohibit the state from creating rules allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers’ license. The position of these groups is one that, on the surface, is easy for conservatives to attack, but as with most issues, understanding what is best for Minnesota requires a more thoughtful analysis … and when you do that analysis, it is clear that we should be allies and support this cause. When we talk about wanting to stand up for others, this is where the rubber meets the road — undocumented immigrants are some of the most vulnerable, easily targeted, easily ignored, members of our community and this bill is an unnecessary and gratuitous attack on the entire immigrant community in Minnesota.

States that have chosen to provide undocumented immigrants drivers licenses don’t do it because they are naive or just to be nice, there are many valid policy reasons for allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses … allowing undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses actually benefits everyone in the state. What this bill (which is buried in the Public Safety Omnibus) does is stops drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants from happening before anyone even proposed it. It prevents our state from engaging in the discussion and debate before we’ve had it. It is meant to shut the door on the immigrant community and send a message to them that we won’t even talk about your needs and how you fit into our community. This is harmful to both the documented and undocumented immigrant community (many families are a mixture of both), and is harmful to the safety of our roads, our economy, our neighborhoods, and is harmful to our spirit as people who care about others.

After an exhausting two days occupying the Governor’s office, the groups have reached out and asked for help. If you’ve been helping out online and making calls this legislative session, but haven’t gotten down to the Capitol yet, this is your opportunity to really have an impact and lift the spirit of some important allies. And it’s actually an exciting time to be at the Capitol building … lots of groups making themselves heard, lots of breaking news, and a newly renovated building!

I’ve included below a list of some of the reasons for supporting drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants.

REASONS TO ALLOW DRIVERS’ LICENSES FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

1. States can maintain accurate records including the names and addresses of all state residents.

2. First responders and health care providers will be better able to determine the identity of victims and patients.

3. State resources can be directed to more crucial priorities if courts and jails are less congested by issues arising from driving without a license or insurance, such as civil violations, criminal charges, and jail time.

4. Granting driver’s licenses to all residents benefits the economy.

5. Driver’s license application fees will generate revenue for states.

6. Enhanced mobility of immigrant workers will grow American businesses and stimulate state.

7. An increase in licensed drivers will boost the auto insurance and auto sales industries.

8. Unlicensed, uninsured drivers cause damage claims that cost other policy holders. More licensed and insured drivers will reduce the number of accidents and lower insurance rates for all.

9. Granting driver’s licenses to all residents strengthens families.

10. In this country, driving is often essential to holding a job to provide basic life necessities for one’s family, such as food, shelter, and medical care. Those who drive work more hours and earn higher wages.

11. With the permission to drive safely and legally to work, school, and elsewhere, undocumented families can participate more fully in society without the constant fear of being stopped by the police.

12. Driver’s licenses can serve as a form of identification that allows immigrant families to live more visibly in society with greater access to financial institutions, medical care, and other basic services. For the undocumented, “a driver’s license is not only a driver’s license, it’s proof that you exist.”

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