Children of Worthington immigrants say driver's license bill 'gives hope'

“There’s big change happening,” said Anahi. “If this does pass, it’ll give the Hispanic community more hope of stuff changing and things actually improving.”

Downtown Worthington
File photo of downtown Worthington.
The Globe File Photo

NOTE: To protect the identities of sources and their families, the names of individuals in this story have been changed.

WORTHINGTON — Anahi Chavez is 15 years old, and when she gets her driver’s license in the coming months, she’ll be the first person in her immediate family to legally be able to drive — but she’s hoping that won’t be the case forever.

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Along with her younger sister Selena, 11, and cousin Lizbeth, also 15, Anahi has followed a bill making its way through the Minnesota legislature that would allow non-citizens to obtain a driver’s license.

Dubbed the Driver’s License for All bill, HF4 passed in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Jan. 30 and now its Senate companion, SF27, is in the committee process. The girls traveled to the state capitol with a group when the bill passed in the House, where they got to hear people speak in favor of the legislation.

“There was this girl, talking about how hard life is being Hispanic and living in America,” said Selena. “I got that, because when you’re colored, lots of people like us, we get less opportunities.”


For the girls, the inability of their parents to drive legally makes a big difference in their lives. Anahi and Selena’s father, who’s originally from El Salvador, takes a bus or rides with a friend to get to work. When he does drive, he prays before he gets behind the wheel, going with “God’s grace to drive,” instead of a license he doesn’t have access to.

The girls walk when they need to get somewhere; they wait longer to be picked up from school. Their mothers make calls when they have to go to the store. All of that makes life a little harder, Anahi said, and it’s embarrassing at times to have to rely on other people to get them where they need to go, to call for rides, and hope a friend or another family member can help out.

With an estimated 30,700 U.S. citizen children in Minnesota with undocumented parents as of 2018, Anahi, Selena and Lizbeth are among many kids across the state whose parents can't obtain a driver's license.

“There’s big change happening,” said Anahi. “If this does pass, it’ll give the Hispanic community more hope of stuff changing and things actually improving.”

While her father knows how to drive, Anahi said her mother hasn’t learned yet. It would make a huge difference in their lives if her father could get a license, and if the bill passes, she believes he will do just that. But, Anahi noted, after years of similar legislation failing to pass, her father doubts this time will be different.

“I told him, ‘don’t think that way,’ because what if this time, it does?” she said. “You never know. There’s more of a chance this time.”

While their dad is aware of the legislation — he follows politics closely, the sisters say — all three girls say that not a lot of their family and friends know the Driver’s License for All bill exists. Getting involved in politics and speaking with friends and family about relevant legislation is something the girls are still learning to talk about.

“We’ll be the first generation living in America, actually getting an opportunity to do this stuff,” said Anahi, gesturing to her sister and cousin. “Getting a license, having to do taxes, all of that is kind of scary because I don’t really know anything and my parents are really trying to figure it out themselves.”


Despite the enormity of the unknown, Anahi said it was important for her to begin the process of getting her own license, even though the classes cost nearly $400. She would be able to help out more and drive her mother to the store and over to Sioux Falls, South Dakota when necessary — even if, her and her sister groan, grocery shopping with their mom takes forever.

“You feel a responsibility, especially me since I’m the oldest,” said Anahi. “I’m just hoping that I graduate high school and get a good job and be able to, when I’m old enough, help my parents get their papers.”

There’s a world out there that all three girls note they haven’t been able to experience as much as some of their peers. They don’t travel beyond Sioux Falls, and their parents never get to travel on their own. Some of their only trips out of the state have been with an aunt who has her license, to visit family in California in a car packed to the brim.

“I look at it this way,” said Anahi stating she doesn’t understand the argument against letting non-citizens obtain a license. “Wouldn’t it be safer? Wouldn’t it cause less accidents? We should have the opportunity to go to classes and learn what the signs mean and how streets work … people that are undocumented are already here. We live here, we work here. It’s not like you can just exterminate us, so you might as well accept it.”

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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