Local immigrants would benefit from ‘Safe Roads’ bill

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Education efforts are under way in the Diocese of St. Cloud to discuss Safe Roads Minnesota, a legislative proposal that would allow everyone to apply for a driver’s license regardless of immigration status.

Mayuli Bales, director of the diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries, has been meeting with area legislators, concerned citizens and the Hispanic communities in the diocese to raise awareness and educate people on the impact this initiative could have on immigrant families and all Minnesotans.

“My role is to be a voice for the voiceless,” Bales said. “Right now, much of the Hispanic community does not understand how legislation works. We are working together with other groups like ISAIAH, the Safe Roads MN Coalition and Mesa Latina to provide education and to encourage people to take a more active role in knowing their rights and responsibilities.”

According to ISAIAH, a faith-based advocacy group and member of the Safe Roads MN Coalition, Minnesota is home to 95,000 undocumented immigrants who are unable to earn a Minnesota driver’s license, preventing families from driving to work or school safely as licensed, insured drivers.

“This means no safe roads for anybody,” Bales said. “This bill would make it easier for immigrants to more fully contribute to the community and provide for their families in a way that is safe for everyone on Minnesota roads.”

The bill would allow applicants to use a foreign-issued passport and foreign birth certificate, translated into English, as proof of identity. Applicants would need to pass the written and driving tests to receive a license.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the state’s Catholic bishops, supports the provisional driver’s license initiative as a way to “uphold the human rights of immigrants and refugees.”

Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) is the chief author of the bill (HF 97) in the House. Sen. Bobby Jo Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) is the chief author of the companion bill (SF 224) in the Senate.

On March 8, Mesa Latina and Bales met with a group of people in Cold Spring.

There are plans to hold education clinics in other heavily populated Hispanic communities within the diocese, Bales said.
“Mostly what Mesa Latina does is to get people in the Hispanic communities to use their own resources to educate themselves in their own language so that they understand what they need to do and how they need to do it,” she said. “They are helping Latinos to build a better future for themselves and for the community that they are a part of.”

‘Inspiring Hope, Celebrating Our Community’ event set for April 25 with Bishop Kettler

Bishop Donald Kettler invites the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud, along with their legislators, to a special event Saturday, April 25, celebrating the immigrant heritage of our nation.

Beginning with a prayer service with Bishop Kettler at 9:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, attention will be called to the hopes and struggles of central Minnesota’s Latino immigrants, said Kathy Langer, director of the Office of Social Concerns for Catholic Charities.

The prayer service will be followed by a reception and discussion with legislators to discover ways to work together for the common good.