Delayed-deportation immigrants can drive in Oregon
Oregon will issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants accepted into a new federal program that delays deportation for some young people brought illegally to the United States as children, officials said Wednesday.
The decision by the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division ends months of uncertainty over how the DMV would handle applications for driving privileges or state identification from illegal immigrants given a two-year deportation delay and the opportunity to obtain a work permit. Oregon law requires proof of legal presence in the United States to get a driver's license, permit or identification card.
Immigrant-rights activists cheered the decision.
"It allows folks to move forward with their lives," said Erik Sorensen, a spokesman for Causa, an immigrant-rights group.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, announced last summer, allows young people brought illegally to the U.S. before their 16th birthday to obtain a temporary reprieve from deportation and the opportunity to obtain a work permit if they meet certain conditions. Immigrants do not get legal status in the United States, however, creating complicated legal questions for DMV officials.
As of Dec. 13, more than 350,000 people had been accepted into the program nationwide. The Department of Homeland Security wouldn't say how many are from Oregon.
Oregon driver's licenses issued to immigrants in the program will expire on the same day as their deferred-action status.
Jim Ludwick, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration, said Oregon should not be issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, even if the federal government has told them they won't be deported.
"Apparently we are no longer a nation of the rule of law," Ludwick said. "We've now morphed into a politicization of that, where certain people will be held to the rule of law and others won't."
Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian saying he was pleased with the DMV's decision. People with authorization to work must be able to get there, he said.
"It's the right decision, and it will provide certainty for working families and employers," Kitzhaber said.