Measure 88: A road divided

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By Kyle Odegard
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Article date: 
Saturday, October 25, 2014
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Oregon Issues
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DEVER-CONNER — Norteno music blared on a radio as Hispanic workers packaged butternut squash headed for markets in Portland and Seattle.

Farm owner Bill Case watched over the activity in his warehouse and talked about the upcoming election. (

(NOTE: It is against Federal law to hire people that are in the country illegally - there is an adequate supply of AG Visa's available if a farmer needs labor)

Measure 88, on the Nov. 4 ballot, would grant driving privileges to Oregonians without requiring proof of their legal presence in the United States.

Proponents of Measure 88 say it would result in safer conditions on the road, as illegal aliens would be trained to drive and get insurance.

Case is all in favor of it, in part because 87 of his 90 farm workers are Latino.

“It’s a no-brainer. It’s safer. Why force them to drive illegally? Force them to learn how to drive,” he said.

According to the Associated Press, the Pew Hispanic center estimates there are about 160,000 unauthorized immigrants living in Oregon, or 4.3 percent of the total population and one-third of Latinos in the state.

Thousands of immigrants work in nurseries, orchards and farms, so those industries, quite understandably, have been supportive of Measure 88.

“The people that need driver’s cards, they are working every day,” Case said.

Local white people don’t want to work in agriculture, he said.

“But the ones out of (Mexico), they work their butts off,” he added.

Case, a longtime sports coach for Jefferson schools, also said he’d have to take students home from activities because their parents couldn’t drive, or didn’t want to risk it.

“They’d ask you for a ride home, or they’d try and get a ride home with somebody else,” Case said.

Other supporters of the measure worried that if it failed, local Hispanics could move to neighboring states where undocumented workers can get driving privileges, thereby making it even harder for farms to find labor.

“They can go to Washington or California to get a license,” Case said.

Emily Jameson, spokeswoman for the Yes on 88 campaign, said that Oregon would be the 11th state to implement some sort of driver’s card or license.

During an Albany rally in favor of Measure 88 on Oct. 7, she said the matter has strong bipartisan support.

“We have people that need to get to and from work. They need to get to and from school,” said Javier Cervantes, director of equity, diversity and inclusion for Linn-Benton Community College, during the rally.

Area Hispanics said plenty of undocumented residents already are driving in Oregon. And many of them had driver’s licenses before 2008, when Oregon passed legislation requiring proof of legal presence.

Twenty-eight of Oregon’s 36 sheriffs, however, including Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley, are adamantly against Measure 88. Former Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller also is in opposition.

“I don’t think it does anything to protect or enhance the safety of our county, or the nation for that matter,” Riley said.

He said that it would encourage criminal activity, potentially aiding drug runners, and could help terrorists trying to infiltrate the United States from Mexico.

“We’ve got people that want to come into our country to do us harm. It would make their job easier to be able to traverse our roads and highways. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Riley said.

He added that it’s still a federal crime for someone to enter the United States illegally.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the folks who have gained citizenship, or who have gained their driver’s license the right way,” Riley said.

David Olen Cross, a Salem resident who writes about immigration issues and a staunch opponent of Measure 88, said the measure won’t result in more insured drivers.

“These people come with no driving history, so insurance rates are going to be high,” he said.

He added that people don’t necessarily need to have insurance to pass a driving test in Oregon — only the car they are operating needs to have insurance.

“They could be driving their friend’s car,” he said.

The measure also would make it easier for criminals to forge identities, he said.

Cervantes said that people can get detained by authorities until they prove who they are, and many undocumented residents lack any identification.

“A lot of the students who I work with have unfortunately been afraid to go anywhere without some form of ID,” he said.

He added that families get sent into chaos if a parent gets detained for lacking identification.

“These undocumented community members are parents of U.S. citizens. So what are we setting up for their future?” asked Tina Dodge Vera, a family and community health faculty member for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

According to the Associated Press, if Measure 88 passes, driver’s cards could be used for domestic air travel, per federal rules.

But people don’t necessarily need a state-issued identification to board a plane, and can do so by showing a foreign passport.

Driver’s cards wouldn’t be able to be used to vote, however, or get government benefits.

Albany’s Latino population has surged since 2000, when 2,500 people, or roughly 6 percent of the city’s population, were Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

By 2010, that demographic more than doubled to 5,700 people, or about 11.4 percent of Albany’s population.

Latinos represented about 8 percent of Linn County’s estimated 2013 population, or nearly 10,000 people, according to the Census Bureau.