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Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs Recommends Driver's Licenses For All, Improved Language Access

Five people hold trophy awards and two hosts stand on each side of the winners.
Kassidy Arena
IPR file
(From left to right) Commissioner Louis Moreno, Director of the Office of Latino Affairs Sonia Reyes and Commissioners Caleb Knutson and Marlú Abarca flank the winners from the Latino Hall of Fame at the Des Moines Art Center last October. Since the pandemic, most commission meetings have been virtual.

This year, Latino affairs commissioners announced some of the same suggestions as they have in the past: improving language access and driver's licenses for all, regardless of immigration status. They have recommended the latter for at least the past six years. The Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs within the Department of Human Rights is required by state code to provide policy recommendations to the governor and lawmakers every year.

Commission chair Caleb Knutson said they even have support from non-Latino leaders for the repeated recommendations. He said they are important enough to continue repeating because both of the policies ensure public health and safety.

“So we'll keep doing it. We'll keep pounding the pavement, we'll keep sending these up the chain. And I know eventually one day, someone will listen," Knutson said.

The governor-appointed commissioners said they have not yet heard back from Gov. Kim Reynolds. The commissioners said providing drivers licenses for all will ensure public safety and reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the road.

Vice Chair Marlú Abarca said the commission has had the data to back up this policy for close to a decade.

“And you just have to have decision makers that are willing to accept the data and agree that it benefits everyone," Abarca said.

They also said improving language access is particularly important as the state hopes to start recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Knutson said one thing that can help push the commission's policy recommendations is representation in local and state government.

"As sad as it is, not until we get more representation of government on all levels will these things matter," Knutson said.

Just last year, Iowa elected its first Latino representative in the General Assembly.

Pat Garrett, Reynolds' communication director, has stated in the past about the commission's recommendations that, "We review all recommendations," and that everything has the chance of going through the legislative process, but not everything is a priority for the governor to look over or implement.