Vote scraps driver-card law

Article author: 
Peter Wong
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

Measure 88 would have allowed permits for those proving skills, but not legal presence.

Voter rejection of Measure 88 last week scraps a law allowing Oregon to issue four-year driver cards regardless of immigration status.

Legislators passed Senate Bill 833 last year, and it would have taken effect Jan. 1 of this year. But it was put on hold after opponents, with financial help from Nevada businessman Loren Parks, gathered enough signatures to put it to a statewide election.

Voters rejected Measure 88, 66 percent to 34 percent. For the law to take effect, “yes” votes had to prevail over “no” votes.

So the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division will not implement the law, which would have allowed four-year cards — half the term of a regular eight-year license — to those who passed driving knowledge and skills tests, but otherwise could not prove legal presence in the United States.

Under a 2005 federal law, states must require such proof before issuing driver’s licenses that can be used for federal identification purposes, such as boarding a commercial aircraft or entering a federal building. The law allows states to issue other forms of driver identification, which must be clearly marked.

Oregon lawmakers wrote the proof-of-legal-presence standard into state law in 2008.

Opponents say that a driver’s card would have conferred a privilege on people who are in the United States without legal papers.

The manager of the opposition campaign was Cynthia Kendoll of Salem, who also is president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.

"Across the board, voters said 'no' to the crazy idea of granting special benefits and legal documents to those who have broken the law to enter our country illegally," Kendoll says. "Voters do not want Oregon to become a magnet for people who break our laws."

Ten states — including California, Nevada and Washington — have or will issue alternatives to driver’s licenses. California’s law takes effect on Jan. 1.

Washington is one of two states that does not require proof of legal presence for driver’s licenses, but it issues an “enhanced” license that can be used for federal identification purposes and travel to and from Canada. Most U.S. citizens must use passports to do so.

Andrea Miller, executive director of Oregon immigrant-rights group Causa, says the defeat of Measure 88 does not resolve the problem of undocumented immigrants without driving permits.

“The need for action is real, and the need continues,” she says. “Measure 88 proved that there is a new and emerging voice in Oregon politics, a proud voice that can bring diverse groups together in ways never seen before in this state. A voice that understands that Oregon is much stronger together than it is apart. And it is one that is here to stay.

"Our communities organized in a way and at a scale we haven’t seen before in this state.”

Oregon can still issue licenses to people with temporary authorization to live in the United States. The license is limited to the authorized stay, not to exceed eight years.

Oregon also can issue licenses to those approved under the federal Deferred Action-Childhood Arrivals program, which defers deportation of those born elsewhere but arrived in the United States as children. They qualify for renewable two-year work permits, and most states — including Oregon — consider them as legally present for purposes of issuing driver’s licenses.

Three-quarters of DACA participants are from Mexico.

Participants have had to have lived in the United States since 2007, and must have been age 31 or younger as of June 15, 2012.

Spokesman David House says Oregon DMV does not keep track of DACA applicants for licenses, but the agency estimated that 16,000 in Oregon would have been eligible to apply for such status back in 2012.