With many lofty goals already achieved, Latino groups push for economic inclusion

By: - September 25, 2023 4:00 am

A large crowd greeted members as they left the House Chamber April 5, 2019 after the House passed a “Drivers’ Licenses for All Bill” 74-52. That year, the bill did not pass the Republican-controlled Senate. (Photo by Paul Battaglia / Minnesota House Information)

MANKATO — The last legislative session featured a number of big wins for groups that advocate for Latinos in Minnesota — Drivers’ Licenses for All, paid family and medical leave and the expansion of the public insurance program MinnesotaCare to include undocumented Minnesota residents.

Latino leaders in Minnesota celebrated last session’s wins and announced their new goals at a campaign launch event Thursday in Mankato, organized by COPAL, LatinoLEAD, the Latino Economic Development Center and HACER.

The next frontier? A more fair and inclusive economy.

About a quarter of Minnesota’s 81,000 undocumented residents file taxes through an ITIN — a number used by the IRS and creditors to identify taxpayers who don’t have a Social Security number.

Many landlords, banks and utility companies do not accept ITINs in place of a Social Security number.

The groups are pushing a bill next session to ban discrimination against ITIN holders. Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Arik Putnam, DFL-St. Cloud, have agreed to sponsor the bill. The Latino advocacy groups are also pushing banks and landlords in the Mankato areas to voluntarily accept ITIN holders.

Given the coalition’s success last session, organizers are optimistic that the bill will pass next year, COPAL executive director Francisco Segovia said.

Last session, the DFL-controlled Legislature made new tax credits available and expanded the homestead credit refund to include ITIN holders. Around 3,300 homeowners use an ITIN, and an estimated 1,900 homeowners are now eligible for the credit thanks to the law change, according to Thursday’s presentation.

But undocumented Minnesota residents often face discrimination when they use their ITIN on applications, especially in housing and lending, organizers said. ITIN holders have reported high interest rates on car loans, inability to sign up for utilities and difficulties finding quality housing.

The three-quarters of undocumented Minnesotans who do not use ITINs may do so for a variety of reasons: fear of deportation and lack of knowledge about the program chief among them, Segovia said.

Undocumented Minnesotans often use a Social Security number belonging to their child or another family member when they have no other way to secure housing or utility services, Segovia said.

“This bill will enhance the living conditions of our community and will bring fairness, justice, equity, and most importantly —as this campaign truly is all about — dignity,” LatinoLEAD executive director Irma Márquez Trapero said.


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Madison McVan, Minnesota Reformer
Madison McVan, Minnesota Reformer

Madison McVan is a Report for America corps member who covers economic mobility for Minnesota Reformer. She previously covered agriculture for Investigate Midwest after graduating from the University of Missouri in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Latin American studies.