One by one they told their stories. At least 4 Latino community members from Northfield shared their experiences with the nearly 300 people in attendance at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Northfield on a recent cold Sunday afternoon. The event, “Safe Roads, Strong Communities” served as a Rice County “Faith Summit” sponsored by the inter-faith public policy organization ISAIAH whose long term goals are economic and racial equity for the entire state of Minnesota.
Senators Jensen and Representative Bly joined me on stage in support of a bill that would insure ensure all persons access to a driver’s license. The bill authors, Senator Bobby Joe Champion (DFL – Minneapolis) and Representative Rod Hamilton (R – Mountain Lake) believe that Minnesota should adhere to the principal of “one state, one license” where all residents, regardless of immigration status, be eligible for a driver’s license. Ten states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently offer driver’s licenses to all residents who apply. This same bill passed in the Minnesota Senate in 2013 but stalled in the House. We believe this bill should get a vote in both chambers in 2015.
The American Civil Liberties Union came out in support of expanding the expansion of the granting of licenses as a way of combating racial discrimination of drivers. Many in our Hispanic communities end up driving illegally. By establishing driver licenses for everyone, we also ask them to respond to safety guidelines on our streets and roads. In addition to creating safer roads, we can give our neighbors and our fellow community members’ access to jobs, or perhaps a better vehicles and of course better compliance in securing automobile insurance. This is an important issue for our Latino communities who currently live with the constant fear of being arrested or fear deportation. These folks do pay taxes and should be able to drive on our roads and bridges that are funded by tax dollars. In addition, the law actually helps raise revenue for the states who that have implemented it.
This Faith summit was a positive first step in raising awareness on an important issue in our communities. It asked that we, in our role as legislators, publicly support the bill and continue our efforts to ensure its passage. As a Senator, a driver education instructor, and as a concerned member of our larger community, I see this as sensible legislation that brings us together for the betterment of our towns, cities, and state. Our Latino friends and neighbors are counting on us.