There's a faster way Linda could drive her son to his Apple Valley school in the morning. But fear forces her to take the quieter, less-trafficked route with fewer stoplights. She is an unauthorized immigrant without a Minnesota driver's license, but with her husband at work, she feels she has no choice but to drive.
For Linda, an errand as simple as school drop-off or getting to a doctor's appointment is a stressful event that could lead to a police encounter, a ticket or even jail. At its worst, a traffic stop could lead to her deportation.
"It's a lot of stress, it's hard. My heart is beating, especially when I'm driving by myself," she said.
A "Driver's Licenses for All" bill that is traveling through the Legislature could change that. The bill would allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain a driver's license without proof of legal residence in the United States.
Advocates say the current law is a safety concern for the public that puts drivers onto the roads unlicensed, especially outside the metro where public transportation is limited or nonexistent. If the bill passed, the law would restore requirements to pre-2003, when access to a driver's license did not hinge on immigration status.
Opponents argue the bill would open an avenue to voter fraud and illegal immigration to Minnesota.
Under the bill, licenses could be used for driving and identification purposes, but could not be used to vote or to obtain a REAL ID, authors point out. Eighteen other states and Washington, D.C., already allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain licenses.
The bill would require applicants to attest to their address in Minnesota and provide documents such as an unexpired foreign passport, a consular identification document with a photograph or a certified birth certificate issued by a foreign jurisdiction, among other secondary documents.
Several law enforcement groups, including the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, expressed support for the bill saying it would mean the drivers would need to pass tests to obtain licenses and it would help cut down on crashes, as well as make it easier for officers to verify identity.
Linda, who didn't want her last name used for fear of deportation, is always careful on the road, she said. When her legally licensed husband is at work and she gets behind the wheel, she signals every turn, comes to a complete stop at every stop sign and drives without the distraction of music. She slowly pulls into the middle school drop-off line and exchanges goodbyes with her son before heading home.
She came to the U.S. from Guatemala 15 years ago in search of a better life in Minnesota. Now in her mid-30s, she co-owns a construction industry business with her husband and is able to provide for their two children and pay taxes.
She said she has heard countless stories about unauthorized immigrants who drive to the store or gas station and are pulled over and arrested, never to return home.
A cop car in the rearview mirror makes Linda's heart race. She's seen the flashing lights before and tries her best to avoid the anxiety of being stopped and having to beg an officer to show leniency.
In 2013, Linda said she was pulled over and is unsure why. She'd forgotten her proof of insurance at home, and her car was towed.
"I explained to her, 'Hey, I'm a single mom. I need to work. There is no other way that I could have income, and I have to drive every single day.' I told her, 'Even if you stop me today, I have to drive tomorrow,' " Linda said. "But she didn't care. She still took my car."
Left alone on the side of the road to call for a ride, Linda said she was frightened but grateful to not be deported and separated from her two children, who are citizens.
"That's the type of fear, that every time that I see a cop behind me. I start shaking. I start praying," Linda said.
She was ticketed for driving without a license and without proof of insurance, she said, and had to go to court to prove the car was insured. The terrifying experience cost her hundreds of dollars, Linda said.
Recently, Linda has struggled with degenerative lumbar issues that have left her unable to work or lift heavy things. A driver's license would allow her to pick up work that she could physically do, such as food delivery, she said.
Hundreds of community members like Linda would be affected by a change to the law — those who are unauthorized and their family members who rely on them, said Ryan Pérez, campaign manager for Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action.
Pérez stressed that the change could help people beyond those who are unauthorized, such as foreign nationals in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status, who have run into paperwork issues that have prohibited them from getting driver's licenses that they should legally be able to obtain.
Senate Republicans explored concessions last week that would designate separate licenses for unauthorized immigrants. While Sen. John Jasinski said he supports licenses for driving privileges, he has concerns about the other ways licenses can be used in Minnesota and about the stress verifying documents from various other countries will put on deputy registrars offices.
"They're trying to make it go as fast as possible. I've been around six years and I've never seen a bill push this quickly," Jasinski said. "This is a massive policy change."
A version of the bill with designated licenses for those without legal status failed in 2017, with DFLers saying that separate licenses would target immigrants.
While the bill is debated in the Legislature, Linda will continue dreaming about having a license that would allow her and her family to feel safe.
Meanwhile, she knows that she will need to continue driving. Her children still need to be picked up from school and to be driven to doctor's appointments.
"Both of my kids know the situation and the youngest one, he's like, 'Mom what can I do?' He doesn't know how to drive, he's only 13," Linda said. "I say, 'We're just going to pray and see what happens.' He knows the fear."