Letters and Op-Eds
Senate Bill 833, passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed into law on May 1 by Gov. John Kitzhaber, will undermine Senate Bill 1080, legislation passed in 2008 that requires legal presence in the state to obtain an Oregon driver’s license.
There was no justification for the Legislature and governor to make SB 833 state law this year allowing those without documentation to obtain access to a pseudo-driver’s license — called a driver card.
Looking back to 2012, when opponents to the issuance of driver’s licenses to the undocumented found out about proposed legislation that would change the legal-presence requirement, they asked to participate in what was then called the Governor’s Driver License Task Force. They were completely shut out.
Exclusion of public input continued even after SB 833 was introduced during the regular 2013 legislative session.
To avoid scrutiny or critiques of the legislation, pro-SB 833 legislators dominated with their own testimony during most of the time they made available for public oral testimony on the legislation. Before hearing from citizens who had signed up to speak in opposition, the Senate committee chair invited lengthy oral testimony from an alleged undocumented mother accompanied by her small child, a political ploy known as “baby waving.”
It gets worse; to avoid further public scrutiny of SB 833 that might reveal possible flaws in the legislation, the senators and representatives controlling the legislative process used a tactic of moving the legislation from the Senate directly to the House floor for a debate and vote, sidestepping the normal procedure of hearings in both chambers.
To open up the democratic process to citizens shunned by the pro-SB 833 cabal in the governor’s office and Legislature, state Reps. Kim Thatcher and Sal Esquivel, along with Richard F. LaMountain, vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, stepped forward and placed their names on Oregon referendum 301. The referendum campaign’s being successful would stop SB 833 from becoming state law on Jan. 1, 2014, and instead would place the legislative decision before Oregon voters in November 2014.
With guidance from OFIR and the Protect Oregon Driver Licenses Committee, in a nonpartisan effort, Oregonians worked together and gathered in just more than four months 70,973 referendum signatures that were turned into the state elections office by the Oct. 4 deadline.
On Oct. 18, after the first statistical check by state election officials of 1,000 referendum petition signees, election officials validated the signatures of 58,291 registered Oregon voters, more than the minimum number of signatures the referendum campaign needed.
The 70,973 registered Oregon voters who signed the referendum did their homework. These Oregonians understand there is simply no data to back up proponents’ claims that making SB 833 a state law will make Oregon’s roads any safer.
Oregon voters who think illegal immigrants should not get driver’s cards will have the chance to overrule their legislators next year. We hope they’ll do just that.
The opportunity comes from Oregon’s initiative process.
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 833 earlier this year, allowing those in the state illegally to get driver’s cards. It was scheduled to go into effect in January.
But last week, Secretary of State Kate Brown announced that opponents had collected enough signatures to put Referendum No. 301 on the November 2014 ballot. If the majority of voters vote no, SB 833 will be overturned. In the meantime, its provisions are on hold.
To get a driver’s card under SB 833, a person must meet all the requirements for a driver’s license except proof of legal residency. The cards are supposed to carry a distinguishing label to prevent their use to try to prove a person is in the nation legally.
Advocates of the law say it will encourage illegal residents to learn the rules of the road, get insurance and drive legally, thereby helping them get to and from work and participate fully in the economy.
Unfortunately, granting the driver’s cards will also further confuse the issue of legal and illegal residence. Depending on how prominently the cards declare their difference from regular licenses, they could be used inappropriately.
The state should not be in the business of creating loopholes for those who break the law by being in the nation illegally. Solving the immigration issue is a federal responsibility and shouldn’t be handled piecemeal by the states.
Oregon’s initiative law has sometimes created governing challenges, as demonstrated by the state’s complex tax structure. But whatever the outcome of the vote in this case, it’s a good use of the initiative process. It gives voters a check on their elected representatives and the chance to exercise some direct democracy.
Once again the media have wrongly and unfairly characterized Oregonians for Immigration Reform as an “anti-immigrant group” (“Driver’s license law up for vote,” Oct. 19). OFIR is not “anti-immigrant.” We are anti-illegal immigration and pro-sustainable legal immigration.
We support our nation’s laws. We believe our elected representatives should do the same and shouldn’t be aiding and abetting those who violate those laws.
We are anti-replacement of American workers with foreign workers, as some U.S. companies are doing to drive down wages. We are against a big increase in the number of foreign work visas that would be allowed under U.S. Senate Bill 744, supported by Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
Kudos to OFIR, state Reps. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, and Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, and the hundreds of volunteers who forced the misguided state Senate Bill 833 to a vote in November 2014. I’m guessing our legislators and governor will find they’re out of touch with their constituents on this issue.
Illegal immigrants hoping to get an Oregon driver’s license in 2014 under Senate Bill 833 will have to wait at least another year now that enough signatures have been gathered to put the issue to a statewide vote.
In May, Governor John Kitzhaber signed the bill into law, granting those without proof of citizenship the ability to get a card allowing them to drive legally in Oregon starting in 2014. But the citizen group Oregonians for Immigration Reform collected the necessary 58,142 signatures to put a referendum blocking the law onto the November 2014 ballot.
The law would still go into effect if voters reject Referendum 301, but either way the move delays the law until voters have their say, almost a year after it was slated to take effect.
Eddie De La Cruz, a member of Hermiston’s Hispanic Advisory Committee, said it was frustrating to see the law hit a roadblock after it was already signed by the governor.
“It’s actually a raw deal we’re getting back because a lot of work went into it and now it’s getting pushed back before it’s even started,” he said.
Opponents of the new driver’s cards say it grants unearned privileges to people who are breaking the law by being in the country illegally. Richard LaMountain, one of the referendum’s chief sponsors, wrote in a guest column for the Oregonian that “Congress has established laws that regulate who enters our country, at what times and in what numbers.”
“By granting driving privileges to illegal immigrants, the Oregon Legislature has undermined those laws — for the specific purpose, indeed, of benefiting those who’ve deliberately broken them,” he wrote.
But De La Cruz said the driver’s cards are about making Oregon roads safer by giving those without proper papers incentive to learn Oregon’s driving laws and train for a driver’s test.
“We were going to make sure if people are on the road they’re safe and qualified and know what they’re doing,” he said. “Now we’re back to square one.”
He said the law also makes economic sense — Oregon is losing money as immigrants take their earnings to states where they are allowed to drive to work legally.
Now supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 833 have another long fight ahead of them as they work to convince Oregonians to vote their way in 2014.
David House, spokesman for the Department of Motor Vehicles in Oregon, said the department had been in the process of training 29 new employees in preparation for the extra workload. Those workers have been let go now that the law that funded them won’t take effect in January.
“Programming, procedures, fliers — everything has been put on hold,” House said.
He said if the referendum fails during the Nov. 2014 election the Driver’s Card Program will begin 30 days later.
Last week, culminating five months of effort by hundreds of volunteers, the group Protect Oregon Driver Licenses presented more than 70,000 voters' signatures to the secretary of state's office. What those signatures will do: assure a place on next year's ballot for a referendum measure to repeal Senate Bill 833, the state law passed in May that grants "driver cards" to illegal immigrants.
I am one of the referendum's chief sponsors. Why did my compatriots and I undertake this effort? Because SB833 undercuts federal efforts to regulate immigration, unemployed Oregonians' hopes of finding jobs and police and sheriffs' work to interdict drugs.
Read LaMountain's entire guest opinion about driver cards for illegal aliens.
Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have joined the Gang of Eight in supporting Senate Bill 744. The bill, termed comprehensive immigration reform by some and amnesty by others, is unconscionable legislation, considering that the seasonally adjusted number of unemployed U.S. citizens stood at 11.5 million in August — 7.3 percent of the civilian labor force.
According the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2011 report, “Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010,” there are 8 million unauthorized workers in the United States.
With so many American citizens looking for work and 8 million unauthorized workers holding the jobs that many citizens will do, the Senate’s legislation seems oblivious at best to the plight of the unemployed.
Two negative consequences of SB 744 are revealed in a June report by the Congressional Budget Office, which indicates the legislation would cause unemployment to increase through 2020 and average wages to decline through 2025.
A Sept. 20 news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment — August,” reveals unemployment rates in the states represented by the Gang of Eight, plus their Oregon sidekicks: Oregon, 8.1 percent; Arizona, 8.3 percent; Colorado, 7 percent; Florida, 7 percent; Illinois, 9.2 percent; New Jersey, 8.5 percent; New York, 7.6 percent; and South Carolina, 8.1 percent. Six of the eight states had unemployment rates higher than the national average.
When Merkley and Wyden returned home from Washington, D.C., this summer, they apparently failed to take a look at the number of unemployed in their state. The Oregon Department of Employment reported 150,259 citizens were unemployed in August; the state ranked 10th, tied with three others, for the percentage of unemployed.
Locally, Lane County’s 13,644 unemployed in August equaled 8 percent of the county’s work force and constituted 9.1 percent of the state’s unemployed.
Twenty-nine of 36 Oregon counties had higher unemployment rates in August than the national average of 7.3 percent, including Lane, Douglas and Coos counties. Twelve of those 29 counties had double-digit unemployment.
Back to the Pew Hispanic Center report, according to which there are an estimated 110,000 unauthorized workers in Oregon. If SB 744 becomes law and those 110,000 unauthorized workers are added to the state’s civilian labor force, the CBO report suggests that the state’s unemployment rate can be expected to increase. That would be a setback for a state still struggling to come out of a severe recession.
The U.S. House of Representatives should take a more incremental approach and first pass stand-alone legislation requiring a federally mandated national employment verification system such as E-Verify, which the federal government currently uses on all its new hires.
With Congress now back in session, Oregon’s 150,259 unemployed U.S. citizens should contact Merkley and Wyden, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio, and tell them that Oregonians never should have to compete for scarce jobs, now or in the future, with persons who are illegally in the country, and furthermore, that a stand-alone federally mandated E-Verify system is the best way to get unemployed people in Oregon and across the country back to full-time work.
David Olen Cross of Salem (email@example.com) writes on immigration issues and foreign national crime.
Today, the group Protect Oregon Driver Licenses will present tens of thousands of voters’ signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. What those signatures will do: assure a place on next year’s ballot for a referendum measure to repeal the recently passed state law granting “driver cards” to illegal immigrants.
Among the referendum’s objectives is to deny illegal immigrants a means by which they can take and keep jobs from working-class Oregonians. But one of the referendum’s chief foes is those Oregonians’ reputed champion — the state branch of the AFL-CIO. In a recent soapbox, branch president Tom Chamberlain pledged his federation to “fight against” the referendum (“Washington County workers face many challenges,” Sept. 12 edition).
To understand the irony of this, let’s examine how illegal immigrants impact Oregon workers.
In August, reported the Oregon Employment Department, more than 150,000 Oregonians were unemployed. A reason for that: according to this year’s estimate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, some 120,000 illegal immigrants hold Oregon jobs.
These jobs are largely in fields like food services, construction and building maintenance/groundskeeping — fields in which, the Pew Hispanic Center reports, illegal immigrants recently have comprised 12 percent, 17 percent and 19 percent of the workforces. Though labor-intensive, they are jobs that can and do provide valuable work experience, decent livings and upward mobility to young, minority and many other Oregonians. Why, then, does the AFL-CIO want to protect driving privileges for illegal immigrants — privileges that would better enable them to take these jobs from our own people?
Many working Oregonians are parents of teenagers. For years, Oregon teens routinely held part-time and summer employment — positions that gave them the entry-level work experience that Reese Lord of the WorkSystems teen-placement program has called “the foundation for a family-wage job.”
But “in the past 10 years,” reported the Portland Tribune in July, “summer youth employment dropped from 46 percent to 7 percent.” A large part of the reason? Over that same period, FAIR and other sources estimate, Oregon’s illegal-immigrant population roughly doubled — and, writes the Center for Immigration Studies’ Steven A. Camarota, “immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work.” By fighting to protect illegal-immigrant driver cards, the AFL-CIO will harm Oregon teens’ chances to find work in their own state.
Last, consider illegal-immigrant jobholders’ impact on the wages of low-skilled, low-income Americans — an impact that has been recognized and documented for decades. In a seminal 2004 study, Harvard professor George Borjas estimated that “between 1980 and 2000, immigration reduced the average annual earnings of... natives without a high-school education... by 7.4 percent” — and that half or more of that reduction was due to competition with illegal immigrants. More recently, write FAIR’s Eric A. Ruark and Matthew Graham, even the liberal Center for American Progress has admitted that “reducing the illegal-alien population in the United States by one-third would raise the income of unskilled workers by $400 a year.” Driver cards would enable illegal immigrants to reach jobs in our state more easily — and to continue their depressive impact on Oregonians’ wages.
In fighting the referendum effort to repeal driver cards, the AFL-CIO betrays its responsibility to the working-class Oregonians it purports to represent — and to add insult to injury, does so with union members’ dues money. AFL-CIO members and other Oregonians should contact Mr. Chamberlain and voice their displeasure — and tell him that next year, they will vote to repeal driver cards for illegal immigrants.
Richard F. LaMountain is vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform and a chief petitioner of the referendum effort to repeal illegal-immigrant driver cards. He lives in Cedar Mill.
Regarding recent articles about children of Spanish descent not learning English, why should they learn our language? They don’t have to in school because the classes are either all in Spanish for them or they are bilingual.
I helped with the read-a-thon at Auburn Elementary School a number of years ago and there was a table of books written in Spanish. Why would children even bother to learn English if they aren’t required to?
Do you have any idea how much money would be saved if everyone had to know English (which is our language) upon entering school?
I don’t see anyone catering to the other nationalities, so why to the Spanish-speaking ones? I just don’t get it. And I know that I am not the only one questioning this.
Go to Mexico and see if they will let your child go to school and provide English-speaking teachers. I think not. My husband was there on business and he had to hire an interpreter.
On that same topic, here’s my pet peeve: Why, when I make a phone call, do I have to press “1” to speak English?
I applaud the ambition of President Obama’s second-term goals, but his pledges to reduce America’s economic inequality and to rein in climate change are undermined by the Senate’s immigration bill. Granted, the proposed comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) offers a political bonanza to Democratic strategists. The resulting population growth, however, will make it much harder to restrain our income gap and greenhouse emissions. In his July 24 speech, Obama deviated from his text to say, “The wealthy are doing better while the middle class is struggling and others are faring worse.” This puts him at odds with the Wall Street crowd, as do his concerns about climate change. On the Whitehouse.gov website, the president calls on Americans to “believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.”
But has Obama consulted the judgment of science about how population growth is increasing America’s carbon output? Scientists know that only increased emissions will result when you add millions more people to a culture stubbornly clinging to a lifestyle framed by acquiring, consuming and emitting.
And then there is the science of economics. At its core stands the power that supply and demand have on wages and the cost of living. Wall Street sings the praises of legislation offering new waves of cheap labor but increasing the labor supply in the midst of the slowest job-market recovery since World War II will not shower affluence upon struggling poor and middle-class families.
It seems Obama views continued U.S. population growth as desirable. A recent report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers claims, “Immigrants increase the size of the population and thus of the labor force and customer base, making an important contribution to economic growth.” Well, that sounds reasonably scientific, but context matters, and today’s population growth occurs in a context that clearly favors the wealthy.
Perhaps Obama also believes that U.S. population growth is slowing down significantly, a claim put forth by those who see continued growth as helpful to their own interests. While it’s true that demographic increase is slowing in the developed world, the United States is at odds with that trend. Since 1980, the population of the European Union has grown by only 10 percent, while the U.S. population has grown by 40 percent, adding 90 million people. Furthermore, the United States is expected to add another 100 million people by 2060, while the E.U. population remains virtually stable.
This rapid demographic growth resulted from increases in legal immigration passed in 1990 at the behest of business interests who worried that our projected expansion was insufficiently robust. Today, rapid immigration stands as a baseline that CIR would further expand.
Thanks to supply-side analysis since the Reagan administration, continued population growth has attained a mystical halo in policy circles. Many insist that such growth in itself creates sufficient economic energy to bestow prosperity upon current residents and newcomers alike. In the context of today’s economic struggles, this is just a smiley face painted on self-serving policy visions favored by those hoping to further increase their own fortunes.
The current debate about immigration focuses on the status of some 11 million undocumented people and ignores the mathematical horsepower that legal immigration commands in driving our population growth. The Pew Research Center estimated in 2008 that immigrants and their descendents will contribute about 82 percent of the growth in the U.S. population between now and the midpoint of this century. So what we decide about immigration will determine our future population size. We owe it to future generations to expand our national debate to include this neglected facet of immigration policy.
In his July 24 speech, the president also promised to use “whatever executive authority” he has “to help the middle class.” I hope Obama takes a moment to observe the parallel tracks between our nation’s numerical population growth and the decline of the middle class over the past 30 years. And he needs to appreciate that history will judge him less on his legislative achievements today than on the effects of that legislation on the economic equality and climate stability witnessed by future generations.
Whatever is decided about the undocumented, the best approach to reining in America’s growing disparity and its disproportionate greenhouse emissions would be to reduce immigration to a degree consistent with a stable U.S. population.
Mark Powell is co-chairman of the New England Coalition for Sustainable Population and vice president of Vermonters for Sustainable Population.
The oft-repeated phrase “political correctness” has become the death knell for meaningful debate within American society.
The P.C. madness sweeping the nation was exemplified last Tuesday when UCLA’s student government passed a unanimous resolution to ban usage of the term “illegal immigrant.” The resolution refers to the word illegal as the “i-word” and claims its usage “endangers human rights.”
The only concept endangered here is the freedom of speech.
The resolution points out that “racially derogatory language … has historically bolstered the foundation for racially harmful actions including … hate crime and violence.” Before we dash to bash certain phrases on college campuses, let’s take a step back and analyze whether they are in fact racially derogatory, or simply a blatant truth.
The legal and conversational definition of illegal immigrant is, “a non-citizen who has entered the United States without government permission.” Hmm, nothing in that definition seems to sound a battle cry to incite racial violence. Rather the definition seems quite sensible and devoid of any implicit racially demeaning undertones.
So what brought about this student government resolution? Was it widespread negative racial profiling, socially marginalized groups or perhaps violent hate crimes? None of the above, just the enforcement of federal law.
The University of California recently appointed former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as their President. While Napolitano was the Secretary of Homeland Security, a record number of illegal immigrants were deported. Instead of being regarded as efficient and committed to upholding federal law, she is being demonized by the “politically correct.”
The most disturbing aspect is that the student government at UCLA is supporting undocumented (key phrase there) students who expressed their concerns and fears with the recent appointment of Janet Napolitano. The students in question conveniently managed to document their complaint but not their citizenship. The backwards result of this being a campus resolution forbidding calling an illegal act illegal. If this sounds like utterly absurd logic—it is.
The freedom of speech on a college campus, a place where discussion and educational growth through diversification should be encouraged, is being strategically hushed under the ruse of improving campus safety. Undoubtedly if issues such as the high rates of illegal immigration into the United States could be openly discussed without fear of being politically incorrect, more solutions would be presented to the problem.
America’s focus should be on diminishing the $113 billion a year that illegal immigration is estimated to cost federal and local taxpayers, as reported by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Instead we prioritize maintaining political correctness so extreme as to forbid merely identifying a demographic by their legal definition. All this is done to avoid offending those who have no qualms about breaking our federal laws. And there the backwards logic rears its ugly head once again.
The same ideology applies to all aspect of American culture. Banning issues from discussion to avoid ruffling feathers is simply putting a muzzle on the freedom of speech. By attempting to portray all cultures and races and beliefs as either one in the same or off limits, we are stifling the diversity that makes this nation great.
In place of passing needless resolutions prohibiting addressing illegal acts for what they are, time should be spent streamlining the citizenship process and other activities that will yield productive results. Encouraging discussions not based off of being political correct, but on respect for differences, an attachment to truth, and accurately addressing the social issues of modern society should be the ideal.
Whitney Greer is a sophomore English major from Medford, Ore.