Sally Goddard - Driver cards would keep roads safer

The state of Oregon should not have to sacrifice its safety or its economy to solve the complexities of a broken immigration system that is the responsibility of the U.S. Congress. While Congress addresses the recent Senate Bill on border security and immigration reform, let’s provide safety and economic stability for our communities here in Oregon.

Senate Bill 833 is good for both Oregon and Yamhill County. Many local citizens have joined me in advocating passage of this important bill in the Oregon Legislature. The measure passed the floor of the Senate this week and will soon be considered in the House.

Sponsored by Republicans and Democrats, SB 833 would permit the Department of Motor Vehicles to grant a short-term driver card to individuals who cannot prove U.S. citizenship or “legal presence” but who have lived in Oregon for a year and meet all other requirements to drive in Oregon. The card, valid for four years, would look different from the usual eight-year driver’s license. But it would allow holders of the card to drive legally and to purchase auto insurance.

It would not be valid for airport security, driving commercial vehicles, purchasing a gun, or as identification to enter a federal building.

I strongly support SB 833. I want to be more certain that the driver next to me has studied the traffic laws of Oregon and has been tested on his or her driving ability. I want all drivers to be able to buy insurance. I want all the families in my community to have access to transportation so that they can go to work, school and the grocery store.

The bill would remove a major obstacle to many immigrant families in Yamhill County. These people provide the backbone of our local and state economy in agriculture, vineyards and wineries, nurseries, restaurants, hotels, construction, landscaping, forestry and other industries. Many workers without documents have lived in Oregon for nearly two decades, contributing to our local economy, becoming a part of our community and raising their families. Their children are enrolled in local schools, participate in sports and music, attend church and keep their doctor appointments — all require frequent transportation.

The measure seeks to remedy the unfortunate consequences of a 2008 law created through an Executive Order signed by former Gov. Kulongoski and passage of SB 1080 in the Oregon Legislature. The 2008 law was written to comply with the federal government’s Real ID Act of 2005, which tightened regulations on documents used for personal identification.

For five years now, the people of Oregon have been required to prove citizenship or “legal presence” in the United States, usually through a U.S. birth certificate or a U.S. passport, in order to obtain a driver’s license. Instead of a document that had tested a person’s ability to drive, the license became a document to prove one’s legal status in the United States.

This change has caused increasing havoc among Oregon’s workers, employers and families. As their driver’s licenses expired and renewals no longer were possible, undocumented workers were either without transportation to get to work or they risked driving without a license or insurance. As licenses continue to expire, the Oregon DMV estimates that by 2016 more than 80,000 people in Oregon will lose their licenses.

Allowing people to drive to work legally is safer for all of us. Keeping our economy strong is essential to rural Oregon. Supporting our families as they seek to support themselves contributes to thriving communities. Urge your representative in the Oregon Legislature to vote yes on Senate Bill 833.

Sally Godard is a psychiatrist, an ordained minister and a member of UNIDOS Bridging Community.

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