Minnesotans can now apply for a driver’s license no matter their immigration status, thanks to a new law that went into effect on October 1, 2023.
The Driver’s Licenses for All law means that more than 80,000 Minnesotans can now apply for a license. It reverses a 2003 order by then Gov. Tim Pawlenty that required proof of legal residence to obtain a driver’s license, stripping thousands of undocumented immigrants of their right to drive overnight.
For the past 20 years, Pawlenty’s order forced our undocumented neighbors to drive without a license.
"We don't drive because we want to, we drive because we must," said Nelvin, a resident of Watonwan County. "As a father there are many reasons why I am compelled to drive. I have to take my three kids to and from school, take them to the hospital, appointments, and now for work I have to drive there and back."
Thankfully, on March 7, Gov. Tim Walz signed the "Driver's Licenses for All" bill into law.
Driver's Licenses for All will positively impact tens of thousands of Minnesotans. Undocumented immigrants can now safely get to work, take their kids to school, go to the doctor, and grocery shop without fear of being stopped by police, ticketed and even facing immigration consequences for simply driving.
Driver’s Licenses for All also will keep our roads safer by ensuring everyone who drives has insurance and has passed a driver’s test. New Mexico saw its rate of uninsured drivers drop by 24% when it passed a similar law; Utah’s rate of uninsured drivers decreased 20%.
States that grant these licenses also see decreases in auto insurance rates.
While passage of this law is a victory for Minnesota, we are mindful that historically, police have mistreated Black and Brown people on the roads at a much higher rate than white drivers. We don't expect this to change with the rollout of Driver's Licenses for All.
Police violence remains all too common across the nation, and it leads to disproportionate trauma, injury, and killings by police in Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.
It should not require a DOJ investigation to spur state and local authorities to act to address police violence.
Resources and more information
The ACLU-MN has a long history of fighting for Minnesotans whose rights are violated by law enforcement agencies. Three cases we won are: