The bill, which would allow access to drivers licenses regardless of citizenship status, was proposed by Mujeres en Liderazgo (Women in Leadership), a group of women organizers in South Minneapolis, who have been organizing in their community for the past 2 years.
The Mujeres chose not to push a vote today, knowing that Governor Pawlenty, who ran on an anti-immigrant campaign, would ultimately refuse to sign the bill. Instead they gave a powerful presentation to build support for next year, when a new governor could present the opportunity for their hopes to become a reality.
“Our goal for the today was to educate the representatives about this bill and show them how it affects our communities. We know that it will not pass into law this year, but it is important to show that we will continue to fight for it and that they need to listen.” Said one organizer.
The campaign has exceeded all expectations stirring a huge outpouring of support from the community during their hearings and lobbying at the capitol this month.
The Mujeres have held a flurry of events in the past 8 days including an important victory at the House Transportation and Transit Policy Committee on March 10th, a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on March 16th, and several days of lobbying in support of the bill.
Proponents of the bill have turned out in large numbers at the hearings, and have made hundreds of calls to the senators and representatives urging them to support the bill.
Approximately 70 community members and allies, were in attendance for the house hearing on March 10th, and though they were given less than 24 hours notice for Tuesday’s senate hearing, the Mujeres managed to mobilize about 40 supporters to attend the meeting.
Testimonies at the three hearings in support of the bill included John Keller, Executive director of the Immigrant Law Center and Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year 2007, Bruce Nestor, past president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, community members, and women from Mujeres en Liderazgo.
Those in favor of the bill argue that “it will result in more licensed and insured drivers in our streets, creating safer communities for everyone.” They also highlight the ways daily lives of many members of the undocumented community are negatively affected by not having access to a license; pointing out: “it is a human rights and justice issue for many Minnesotans”
But the bill has not been without criticism from anti-immigrant extremists, including groups which have ties to violent nativists, and white nationalists (see links below).
Ruthie Hendrycks [from the anti-immigrant hate groups MinnSir (Remember the tea party against amnesty?) and FIRE] got wind of the bill just before today’s hearing and sent out a frantic action alert to her followers.
During the senate hearing Republican senator Mike Parry went on an angry tirade, shouting: “Immigrants have no rights!” Afterwards he was strongly reprimanded by the committee chair.
Jovita Morales of Mujeres en Liderazgo commented on the campaign:
“This campaign has definitely been a victory; we have all learned so much in such a short time. Today we showed the strong community support that this bill has, and this is just the beginning. We are determined to continue this fight next year with even more strength, and we are going to win.”