Thousands of people across multiple states marked May Day by marching in support of immigrant communities and, in particular, allowing undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses. In Wisconsin alone, nearly 200 businesses shut down in a statewide strike as an estimated 10,000 rallied at the state capital to support licenses.
"I'm here as a co-owner of a dairy and an immigrant, I am here because our community needs driver licenses," said dairy farmer Omar Guerrero in a release from advocacy group Voces de la Frontera. "Most dairy workers are Latino immigrants. We should all be able to work, pick up our kids, and get groceries without fear. This will also make the whole community safer. We make this state stronger, and we need driver licenses."
Not all states allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive, which defies common sense. When more people can drive legally, roads become safer all as more people become insured. This hasn’t always been an issue in Wisconsin: Voces de la Frontera noted in a statement that undocumented immigrants there were able to apply for licenses up until 2007, when the legislature changed the law to block this.
In a move that has earned bipartisan support, the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, “has included measures to restore driver licenses for immigrants in his 2019-2021 state budget proposal,” Voces de la Frontera continued. It’s also a humanitarian issue. As advocates in marches in New York and New Jersey also noted, when getting pulled over for a broken taillight could lead to deportation, driver’s licenses can help keep families together.
“On one of our regular Sunday drives back home late last year, my mom was pulled over,” New Jersey resident Eri Torres said. “When the police officer asked my mom for her driver’s license, we had to explain to him that she only had a license from Colombia where she was born.” Thankfully, the officer let them go with a warning, but she “feared the officer could make the decision to report us to ICE.” Without legislation passing there, in Wisconsin, and New York, Torres’s mom and others remain at increased danger.
“Movimiento Cosecha organized Day Without an Immigrant actions in New Jersey, Indiana, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan to urge those states to restore access to driver licenses for immigrants and provide countywide protections as part of their #ManejandoSinMiedo campaign,” or driving without fear campaign, Voces de la Frontera continued. “Given what’s happened at the federal level, there is an added urgency to win this protection,” said Voces leader Christine Neumann-Ortiz.