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Immigrant rights activists rally at MN capitol for driver’s licenses for all

By Montana Hirsch

Immigrant rights protest demands driver’s licenses for all

St. Paul, MN – More than 40 immigrant rights activists from all over the state of Minnesota rallied at the capitol here, February 11, the opening day of the legislative session. People traveled from as far as Zimmerman and Rochester to participate in the action. The rally and lobbying action were organized by Minnesota Immigrant Movement (MIM) and Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC). Activists asked the Minnesota legislature to support driver’s licenses for all and to make Minnesota a sanctuary state.

Dressed in red, MIM and MIRAC members rallied in the rotunda of the capitol, calling on representatives to pass legislation that would allow all people, including undocumented immigrants, to take the driver test and get a license. Activists marched from the rotunda to the doors of the senate chanting “What do we want? Driver's licenses! When do we want it? Now!” and “¿Qué es lo que queremos? ¡Licencias! ¿Cuando es lo que queremos? ¡Ahora!” The protesters even received support from other groups gathered at the capitol as they were inspired to cheer them on and join in on the rally.

Activists with MIM first started mobilizing community members around the Driver’s Licenses for All campaign in 2008. They argue that allowing people wider access to licenses has far-reaching benefits. Drivers and passengers will be safer on the road if all people have the ability to take the driver’s test and learn the state’s laws. Having a driver’s license as a form of identification also allows families better access to basic services such as renting an apartment, opening a bank account and paying bills. Last year a driver’s license bill passed in the Minnesota House but failed to pass the Senate.

After the rally, MIRAC and MIM members lobbied individual senators asking them for their support of a driver’s license bill. Some lawmakers think the bill might not pass due to the Republican majority in the senate, but activists and community members will continue fighting until all Minnesotans have access to driver's licenses.

But the fight will not end with just driver’s licenses. After pressuring leaders to make Minneapolis a sanctuary city, MIRAC activists and other immigrant rights groups continue fighting to make Minnesota a sanctuary state. “Sanctuary” typically implies that a municipality will refuse to collaborate with ICE, therefore giving sanctuary or safety from deportation to undocumented immigrants. MIRAC members will continue to lobby their representatives to support their Sanctuary State platform which includes driver’s licenses for all, ending ICE detention, no data sharing with ICE, divestment from border militarization, access to health care benefits for immigrants, and expanding resources for refugees and immigrants in Minnesota.

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