Nearly 100,000 of our fellow Minnesotans aren’t allowed to drive. Not because they aren’t old enough, or they have a suspended license, or they pose a danger to themselves or other drivers. Instead, they aren’t allowed to drive for one simple reason: they’re undocumented.
It wasn’t always like this. For decades, anyone who could prove Minnesota residence and pass a driver’s exam was allowed to obtain a driver’s license.
In 2003, that all changed. Amid a wave of fear and distrust toward immigrants following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, former Governor Tim Pawlenty unilaterally stripped away the freedom to drive from tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors who are undocumented. The effects have been devastating for undocumented Minnesotans, who risk deportation and forcible family separation if they choose to get behind the wheel.
Since that fateful day in 2003, immigrants have been fighting for a bill that would reverse course: Driver’s Licenses for All. I am proud to be the chief author of this legislation in the Minnesota Senate.
This bill is quite simple. First, it restores the ability of all Minnesota residents – regardless of citizenship or immigration status – to obtain a Class D driver’s license as long as they pass the driver’s test and get insurance. Second, it provides data protections for undocumented Minnesotans. Third, it ensures that a future governor can never again unilaterally and undemocratically take away driver’s licenses from our immigrant and refugee neighbors.
This bill is common sense. It makes our roads safer. In states that have a similar policy in place, the rate of hit-and-runs decreased between 7 and 10 percent. Furthermore, states like Utah and New Mexico have both seen significant drops in uninsured rates after adopting driver’s licenses for all.
In Minnesota – particularly in greater Minnesota where there is little to no public transportation – we need to be able to drive safely and without fear. To get to school, to get to work, and to get to places of worship. To live lives of dignity.
It’s an honor to carry the legacy of this 20-year movement for the freedom to drive, a movement that started when I was only five years old, as the southside’s Senator. I am determined to make sure that this proposal is signed into law by Governor Walz this year.
Senator Zaynab Mohamed represents district 63 (south Minneapolis and a portion of southwest Minneapolis) in the Minnesota Senate.
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