Latino advocates offer translation at DVS locations in celebration of Drivers Licenses for All
The anticipation was palpable among those braving the midday heat Sunday to line up outside the Eagan Drivers Vehicle Services office.
For many Americans, a trip to the driver’s license office is a fearsome drudgery, but for the people here Sunday, it was a blessing, a chance to be a legit driver no matter their immigration status.
Gov. Tim Walz signed legislation in March making standard driver’s licenses available for all eligible Minnesota residents. The new legislation went into effect Oct. 1, and the Eagan DVS location offered special hours on Sunday.
Two dozen people had appointments to take their written knowledge test. Workers for Minnesota-based advocacy group Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action (COPAL) were outside the facility all day assisting with translation. Minnesotans filled out forms as a handful of COPAL workers flitted around, trying to help as many people as they could so applicants could get to their appointments on time.
“It’s really complicated for me,” said Mercedes, long time Minnesota resident about getting her license Sunday. (The Reformer is only using her first name to protect her privacy.)
Mercedes was the only person without a time slot to take her knowledge test. She arrived before any other person and stayed for hours in hopes that somebody would miss their appointment so she could take her test. “If not today, maybe another day,” she said.
Claudia Lainez of COPAL said the benefits of the new legislation are two-fold.
People will be able to get better paying jobs because many jobs, she said, require reliable transportation, which in Minnesota usually requires a driver’s license.
For the rest of us, she said, “It’s going to be safer because they aren’t putting themselves and others at risk” by driving without a license. That’s why a range of police groups backed the new law, which will allow law enforcement to track who’s on the road.
COPAL estimates that there are over 80,000 undocumented residents in Minnesota who will benefit from this law.
“It’s just the beginning, but it’s great,” said Eduardo Peñasco, a COPAL organizer. “We want to impact the quality of life of the Latino community in Minnesota. We are restoring the capability for our community to drive their families, go get groceries, get a better-paid job.”
Appointments to take the knowledge test can be made through the DVS website for 30 days out.