Reward for a crime?

Letter date: 
Friday, May 3, 2013
Letter publisher:
Letter author: 
Steve Lundeberg
Letter body: 

Predictably, it didn’t take long for the backlash against Oregon Senate Bill 833 to begin.

That’s the measure allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a form of driver’s license. The House passed it Tuesday, and Gov. John Kitzhaber signed it into law.

The next day, the newsroom emailbox received a heated missive from a group called Oregonians for Immigration Reform. OFIR, the press release said, plans to file a referendum on SB 833 that would put the measure before a statewide vote.

The bill, OFIR says, “seeks to put Oregon government back into the business of legitimizing the presence of illegal aliens in Oregon, which also flies in the face of their sworn oath of office.

“... Following the successful collection of 58,142 signatures every Oregon voter will be given the opportunity to reject SB 833, a bill ramrodded through the Oregon Legislature in less than a month so that Governor Kitzhaber could celebrate with hundreds of illegal aliens occupying the Oregon Capitol this May Day. Oregonians deserve better from their elected officials.”

More on that last point in a minute. But first, take note of another emailbox item, one that arrived May 2. It was from Basic Rights Oregon, a group dedicated to equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and it noted how BRO had gone to Salem in support of the aforementioned rally sponsored by Causa, an immigrant rights organization.

“The driver’s cards will improve traffic safety and reduce the number of uninsured motorists on Oregon's roads,” Basic Rights Oregon’s press release said, and that prediction would seem to be a well-reasoned one.

That’s why SB 833 is a good idea. The main thing it does, contrary to those who fixate on the notion that it provides a reward for breaking the law, is strive to make all Oregonians’ lives both safer and less costly.

Illegal immigrants are here, and they’re driving. The Oregon Legislature can’t do anything about that. So doesn’t it make sense to at least take steps to have them be proficient, on the state’s radar in the form of licensure — and fees — and insured?

Much like in-state tuition for children of immigrants (which we now have) or like one of Basic Rights Oregon’s main areas of emphasis — working toward the legalization of gay marriage — how does that actually hurt anyone, take anything away from what anybody else already has?

Do we need a coherent, intelligent federal policy on immigration in general and immigration involving Mexican nationals in particular? Absolutely. That’s obviously the broader issue here.

But until we have such a policy, all Oregon can do is deal with things the way they are now. SB 833 is a common sense attempt at that.

And that sort of clear thinking is what Oregonians deserve from their lawmakers.