Archbishop Hebda testifies for bill providing undocumented immigrants opportunity to become licensed drivers

Chair Becker-Finn and Members of the Committee:

Good morning, my name is Bernard Hebda, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and I have joined the meeting today to speak on behalf of the Minnesota Catholic Conference in support of House File 1163, Drivers Licenses for All.

Thank you, Rep. Winkler, and the other bill authors who have re-introduced this urgently needed remedy for the approximately 90,000 undocumented people in our state.

Allowing undocumented persons to obtain provisional drivers licenses serves the common good in several ways.  Most importantly, public safety is promoted by having more licensed drivers on the road, who, studies have shown, are less likely to be involved in fatal accidents and also are more likely to be insured.

One objection to this legislation is that it will reward lawbreaking and undermine respect for the rule of law.  Let me address that objection head on.

Almost everyone acknowledges that we have a broken immigration system that needs fixing.  Sadly, Congress has not passed comprehensive reform legislation.

We cannot wait.  Minnesota needs to act now to limit the threat that a traffic stop will upend lives and families of our friends and neighbors.  Our immigrant brothers and sisters deserve to live with dignity, not in fear of being separated from their families every time they need to drive somewhere.

Too often, we let secondary relationships define our identities and how we treat others.  We may see ourselves as American citizens, and immigrants as illegals or aliens.  How unfortunate if those labels  limit the reach of our solidarity.  Instead, we must first identify ourselves as brothers and sisters, all children of the same God, each possessing the dignity of being created in his image and likeness.  It is unthinkable that there would be borders in his kingdom.  Nor should there be borders around our hearts.

This bill is one of the most important things we can do for our immigrant brothers and sisters here in Minnesota.  Immigrants are here to stay and will continue to drive to meet their needs.  Let us both make everyone safer and help the strangers in our midst, so that perhaps they become strangers to us no longer.

Thank you, Madame Chair and members.