Several months in, Latino advocates assess MN’s Driver’s Licenses for All

Mike Moen, Public News Service

Events are scheduled this month to inform more people about Minnesota’s new law eliminating the need for proof of legal residence to get a driver’s license. Advocates for Latino immigrants see some positives, along with a few hiccups to sort out.

Last fall, Minnesota launched its Driver’s Licenses for All initiative, with supporters saying it would make roadways safer while removing transportation burdens for undocumented individuals.

Eduardo Penasco, lead organizer for Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action, said in general, the policy change is still embraced by the populations he works with.

“People are happy about this and (are) making an effort to try to apply and go through the process so they can get their license,” Penasco observed.

At first, the group found many Spanish-speaking applicants were not passing the written exam, in part through not accessing valid information in the driver’s manual. In partnering with the Department of Public Safety, it has been hosting orientations to help people prepare. The organization noted written exam passage rates are improving but there is concern some people are discouraged by early obstacles.

The Department of Vehicle Services has upcoming dates listed on its website for various outreach related to the program. The events are all in the Twin Cities, and the group hopes to beef up its informational approach elsewhere in Minnesota.

Community Events
  • Saturday, June 22, 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. CAPI USA World Refugee Day Tabling with info Centennial Park 6301 Shingle Creek Parkway, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
  • Thursday, June 27, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans MACV Summer Salute Tabling with Info CHS field 360 N Broadway St, St Paul, MN 55101​

Penasco indicated they want Latino communities to feel reassured about the option and recapture the enthusiasm seen when the initiative kicked off.

“It has been kind of a slowdown a little bit but still somewhat in demand,” Penasco pointed out. “Taking the first step is always the difficult part.”

After focusing on helping with those first steps, Penasco added the next challenge is the skills test behind the wheel. Staffing issues have led to delays in scheduling. Community partners also point out that driving schools, prompted by a failed test, can be costly with information in English only. Penasco feels the state is making a sincere effort to reduce headaches as all parties try to adjust.

Cover Photo: When it was adopted last year, Minnesota’s Driver’s Licenses for All law was forecast to allow more than 80,000 undocumented individuals to begin the process to secure a license. (Adobe Stock)

Publisher’s Notes: Several months in, Latino advocates assess MN’s Driver’s Licenses for All was first published by Public News Service and republished with permission.

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