Driver's license bill unfair to legal Oregonians

Letter date: 
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Letter publisher: 
Letter author: 
Richard F. LaMountain
Letter body: 

My View: Legislature's approval requires opposition voices to be heard loud and clear

In the Oregon Legislature, few bills have been moved with greater alacrity than Senate Bill 833, which grants four-year driver’s licenses to undocumented residents.

Only three weeks ago, the Senate Business and Transportation Committee held the Legislature’s first public hearing on the bill. Last week, with little debate, it passed the Senate; on Tuesday, the House voted to approve it. Within days, Governor John Kitzhaber is expected to sign the bill into law.

Why the rush? Most likely, to make illegal immigrants’ licenses a fait accompli before public opposition has had time to jell.

SB 833 will make life immeasurably easier for Oregon’s job-holding illegal immigrants. By doing so, it almost certainly will attract more illegal residents here, to compete with unemployed Oregonians for the state’s still-scarce jobs.

Skeptical? Consider the impact of a license on your own life — the quick and convenient travel it allows, in your own car, at the time of your choice, to wherever you wish to go. Without a license, you would rely on fixed-schedule public transportation, rides from friends or your own two feet to get you from place to place.

So, too, for illegal immigrants. And the most important places that licenses will enable them to go is their jobsites. For many, especially those who work in out-of-the-way locales, licenses will be the difference between holding a job or not.

According to estimates from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, some 120,000 illegal immigrants are employed in Oregon — many in the fields of food service, construction and building maintenance/groundskeeping. Indeed, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, illegal residents recently have composed, respectively, 12 percent, 17 percent and 19 percent of these fields’ work forces.

In illegal immigrants’ absence, many of these jobs would be filled by Oregonians, of whom nearly 168,000 were unemployed in March. But with access to driver’s licenses, a privilege illegal immigrants enjoy in only four other states, it will better enable them to keep these jobs and would be a powerful incentive for tens of thousands more to come here as well. This, in turn, will enable unscrupulous employers to perpetuate business models that rely heavily on cheap labor and do wrong to their jobless countrymen.

What will more illegal immigrants mean for the state’s taxpayers?

A bigger hit to the wallet, for one, since job-holding illegal residents do not contribute a proportionally fair share of taxes to fund the operation of Oregon’s governments.

“An estimated half of all illegal aliens work in the underground economy for cash,” writes FAIR’s Jack Martin, “and do not, therefore, have any payroll taxes withheld.”

Countless others who are “working with fake or stolen identity documents,” Martin asserts, “are largely in low-wage jobs” with no or minimal tax liabilities.

The result: as per FAIR’s comprehensive 2012 study, Oregon’s illegal immigrants pay only $77 million a year in state and local taxes. But they and their children consume more than $1 billion a year in state and local services.

The more illegal residents that SB 833 attracts here, the more that disparity will grow, and the more money that will be extracted from Oregonians to subsidize their presence.

In approving SB 833, lawmakers abdicated their moral and fiduciary responsibility to their countrymen. At this late stage of the process, what can Oregonians do?

First: Despite Kitzhaber’s stated intent to sign the bill, Oregonians should contact him at, and tell him they oppose driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

Second: Oregonians should visit the Legislature’s website at, review the names of lawmakers who voted for the bill, and remember those names in the 2014 elections.

Our elected leaders’ first and foremost responsibility is to Americans. SB 833 violates that responsibility. Oregonians should say so, loudly and clearly.

  Richard F. LaMountain of Cedar Mill is vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.