Good afternoon; I am Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, representing my brother bishops of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. I am honored to speak on behalf of driver’s licenses for all, a legislative proposal that is long overdue in its passage, and one for which there is urgency to act.
As a Catholic bishop, I wish to focus today on the moral imperative of passing this legislation because of its impact on family life. Immigrant driver’s licenses will assist with a very basic component of what people need to subsist in modern life: transportation—to school, to work, to church. In many parts of Minnesota, there is no public transportation. With no public transportation, undocumented persons have limited ability to get to work, church, the market, or school other than by driving without a license.
Every Minnesota resident, especially those who have proven themselves as hardworking contributors to our communities, deserves to live with dignity, not in fear of being separated from their families every time they drive to meet basic needs. If enacted, the new law would keep immigrant families together by minimizing the possibility that a minor traffic infraction would trigger the engagement of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement apparatus.
Most of us cannot even begin to imagine what loss of movement, or the fear of being deported and separated from our families while doing so, would mean in our lives.
In fact, in our many parishes that serve many undocumented persons and their families, the inability to drive, or doing so without a license, is a major source of stress. The reality that each trip to the grocery store could mean separation from families takes its toll. As a Church, we work in the public arena to keep families together and help them flourish; creating driver’s licenses for all is part of our families first policy agenda.
I hope today that we as Minnesotans follow the most common biblical moral exhortation—to welcome the stranger—and remember that most of our families, too, were once strangers in this land, arriving with the same hope that our undocumented community has today. Though the situation at the border is troubling, and we live under a broken system, Congress has neglected to produce comprehensive immigration reform. We can do something meaningful and important for thousands of immigrants in our midst by shielding law-abiding residents from family separation while also promoting public safety and the common good. Thank you very much.