Driver’s licenses for all is important for building an equitable recovery

Clark Goldenrod
May 14, 2021
Expanding access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status would advance the economic success of our state. It would also recognize and support the contributions of immigrants who call Minnesota their home and are working, learning, and living in our communities. This policy provision is currently included in the Minnesota House’s transportation omnibus budget bill. 

For a large number of Minnesotans, the daily activities we do to support our families -- like getting to work, dropping children off at school, or buying groceries -- require driving. For about 85,000 Minnesotans, doing these basic activities without a driver’s license risks potentially life-altering consequences, including being separated from their families and losing their livelihoods.  

Many immigrants are serving our communities as essential workers on the frontlines during COVID-19. Estimates show that about 40,000 undocumented workers in Minnesota are in critical roles, such as making sure we all have food on the table in their jobs as farm workers and food processors, or protecting our health and well-being as health care workers. Now more than ever, it is crucial that all of our community members can reliably and safely get to their jobs.  

Allowing all Minnesotans the ability to acquire driver’s licenses is also a crucial step in building a more equitable and prosperous economy. As our state’s workforce ages, Minnesota increasingly relies on all members of our communities being able to fill critical jobs, which often require having a driver’s license. Driver’s licenses for all will allow more community members to schedule a range of shifts and otherwise access broader job opportunities. The resulting increase in these Minnesotans’ earnings also creates a boost in consumer spending that’s good for our local economies. 

This proposal is an important step toward giving all Minnesotans – regardless of who they are or where they were born – a fair shot in today’s economy, and allowing everyone to more fully and safely be a part of our communities. This bill has not been included in the Senate’s transportation budget; we strongly urge policymakers to pass this provision into law this year.