Archbishop Joins DFL Legislators at Capitol in Push to Provide Driver’s Licenses to Illegal Immigrants


House DFL legislators joined community organizers Thursday for a press conference to call for providing driver’s licenses to all Minnesotans, “regardless of immigration status.”

House Majority Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley) was accompanied by colleagues Rep. Aisha Gomez (D-Minneapolis), Rep. Rod Hamilton (D-Mountain Lake), and others in unveiling House File (HF) 1500 at the press conference.

“A person is not required to demonstrate United States citizenship or lawful presence in the United States in order to obtain a noncompliant driver’s license or identification card,” that bill states, and has 31 House co-authors.

At Thursday’s crowded press conference, Winkler said House Democrats are “committed to getting this done this year,” saying Minnesotans need to be “firmly on the side of decency and dignity for human lives.”

“This is not a long shot. This has been an issue for far too long,” he added. Gomez called the “Freedom to Drive” push a “community effort” and a “coalition.”

“When we stand together, we do work that is more powerful. We do work that reflects the realities Minnesotans are living with,” she said.

One of the main activism groups behind Thursday’s press conference was Isaiah Minnesota, a “vehicle for people of faith to work together for racial and economic justice.” Archbishop Bernard Hebda was in attendance Thursday and spoke in favor of passing “freedom to drive” legislation.

“This legislation is an important human rights test. Will we as Minnesotans embrace our brothers and sisters and help them in a way that costs us nothing as a community? Or will we be overcome by what Pope Francis calls a ‘culture of indifference’ that fails in the duty to see the needs of others effectively?” Hebda said. “I hope today that we as Minnesotans follow the most common Biblical, moral exhortation to welcome the stranger and remember that our families too were once strangers in this land who arrived with the same hope that our undocumented community has today.”

One DACA recipient, Veronica Oreinna, spoke to the crowd gathered at the State Capitol, and said she wants a “normal life” and the ability to “drive without fear.”

Liz Rammer of Hospitality Minnesota and Dave Buck, president of the Milk Producers Association, argued that the bill would help their workers travel to and from jobs safely and legally.

HF 1500 has the support of several local politicians, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

“Denying undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses is a lose-lose policy that makes our roads more dangerous while disenfranchising an already marginalized community,” Frey said Thursday.

Frey’s city is currently in the process of rolling out a “municipal identification card” program for all people residing in the city, including illegal immigrants. These IDs would serve as a “recognized ID for interacting with the Minneapolis Police Department,” The Minnesota Sun reported.

Republicans have introduced legislation in the House and Senate that would block efforts such as these from proceeding.

“We have laws for a reason and all units of government, from the federal government down to the smallest cities, should follow the law,” Rep. Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook), co-author of the bill, said. “It is appalling and quite unbelievable to have some of the largest cities flagrantly violating the laws of the United States. If people want immigration laws changed, there is a process for that.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Minnesota House DFL” by Minnesota House DFL. 










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