Thursday, February 21, saw the launch of Freedom to Drive Minnesota, a campaign for driver’s licenses for all Minnesotans, regardless of immigration status. On Friday, February 22, a rally at the state capitol will focus on the plight of Liberians who are scheduled to lose Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status on March 31.
Legislation introduced in the Minnesota House would return the state to the driver’s licenses for all status that was the law until 2003. The legislation was introduced by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, with 30 DFL and Republican co-sponsors.
“More than 100 community members from various advocacy organizations filled the steps of the state Capitol to join Winkler and other lawmakers to show support for the bill.
“Alfreda Daniels is an organizer with the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation and co-founder of the Black Immigrant Collective. She said many members of the black immigrant community don’t have driver’s licenses.
“One of these is Alberto, a young undocumented Cameroonian man, who cannot do something as simple as join a gym,” she said. “Another is a Sudanese mother who has a child with a disability and cannot drive her daughter to playdates or doctor’s appointments.”
From the Star Tribune:
“Minneapolis and St. Paul police officers, religious leaders and business and labor representatives banded together to call for Minnesota to join at least a dozen other states that allow people who are not legal residents to get licenses. A large group of supporters, which included House members from both political parties, packed a stairwell at the Capitol and made the case from a range of perspectives.
“Hospitality Minnesota President Liz Rammer noted the state’s workforce shortage and said allowing people to have licenses, regardless of their immigration status, is a “practical solution” to help fill jobs.”
From KARE 11:
“Minnesotans deserve the chance to live and grow and go wherever they want to without fear,” Veronica Orrellana of Worthington told reporters.
“Orrellana is protected from deportation for the time being by virtue of being a DACA recipient but told of how she and other immigrant students missed out on extracurricular activities because her mother feared being pulled over in traffic.
“I want to live a normal life too. I think every child deserves that.”
“Twelve states and the District of Columbia currently allow undocumented workers to get a driver’s license.
“Among those advocating for the change were the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Archbishop Bernard Hebda, leader of the Twin Cities Catholic Archdiocese.
“I hope today that we as Minnesotans follow the most common biblical and moral exhortation to welcome the stranger, and remember that our families too were once strangers in this land, who arrived with the same hope that our undocumented community has today,” Hebda said.”
On Friday, February 22, another rally at the Capitol will ask for an extension of Deferred Extended Departure (DED) for Liberians. Under orders from the Trump administration, this status is set to terminate on March 31. Liberians who have lived in the United States for decades will lose work authorization and driver’s licenses and will be subject to deportation.
The Washington Post, noting the large number of Liberian residents in Minnesota, interviewed a Minnesota woman who faces the tough choices imposed by the end of DED:
“Menyongar, 48, faces deportation to her native Liberia, where she fled civil war nearly 25 years ago.
“In less than six weeks, the order that has allowed her and more than 800 other immigrants from the former American colony in West Africa to live in the United States for decades will end, the result of Trump’s decision last year to terminate a program that every other president since George H.W. Bush supported. Come March 31, Menyongar will face a choice: Return to Liberia and leave behind her 17-year-old daughter, an American citizen, or stay in the United States, losing her work authorization and becoming an undocumented immigrant.”
MinnPost reported on a forum convened by Representative Ilhan Omar, who invited Linda Clark to be her guest at the State of the Union address. Clark, a Liberian who has lived in Minneapolis for 19 years, fears loss of her DED status status:
“I get emotional when I talk about it all the time,” said Clark, who has called Minneapolis home for the last 19 years. “So I talk about it when my friends bring it up, because I have a lot of friends who are on DED, and I just tell them I’m hopeful. I pray that our prayers will be answered. You know, 19 years is not something to say ‘temporary.’ It’s permanent now, for 19 years.
“No more temporary if you feel somewhere is like a home. This place we call our home, living here. We moved here 19 years ago in civil war in the middle of a hurricane, and everything wiped out, and you don’t have anything, and come to another place to make a home and you don’t have anything, you don’t have a job or anything going there, too.” …
“Minnesota lawmakers are trying to help. The same day the immigration roundtable took place in Minneapolis, a letter in Washington, D.C., to Trump signed by Omar, Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum, Angie Craig, Dean Phillips and Collin Peterson implored:
“Our state of Minnesota has one of the largest Liberian populations in the country. Many have lived in our state for decades as business owners, teachers, and health care workers. They have contributed to the cultural and economic strength of our state. Forcing Liberians to return to an unstable country will not only risk their safety, but will also separate families, harm communities, and disrupt local economies. It is for this reason that we ask you to extend the DED protection for Liberians now in effect before they expire at the end of March.”
The Friday rally will take place at 1 p.m. on the Minnesota State Capitol steps.