Should Oregon offer driver cards to undocumented immigrants?
Next November, Oregonians will have the opportunity to vote in support of Senate Bill 833, widely viewed as a common sense, public safety measure designed to improve traffic safety and reduce the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorists on the roads.
SB 833, a bipartisan law initially passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013 and signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, directs the Department of Transportation to issue limited-purpose, limited-duration driver cards to Oregonians who pass a driver’s test and provide proof of Oregon residency for a minimum of one year.
Unfortunately, opponents of the public safety law, with help from a significant amount of out-of-state money, gathered enough signatures to refer the law to voters, thereby putting its implementation on hold until after the 2014 election.
Oregon needs SB 833 because every driver must know the rules of the road and pass a driving test. The law will reduce accidents, make our roads safer and help protect everyone using our roads from preventable injury. Since each licensed driver is required to get auto insurance, the law will protect everyone using our roads from financial loss.
Currently, we don’t have these protections. Too many drivers are unlicensed, untested and uninsured. Passing this measure will make all these requirements the law of the land.
A study last year by the California Department of Motor Vehicles found that unlicensed drivers are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash as licensed drivers. The study, entitled Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers, found that “compared to licensed drivers, suspended/revoked and unlicensed drivers are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash.” Data from the study, at http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/newsrel/newsrel12/2012_19.htm, also showed that “unlicensed drivers tend to be more hazardous than suspended/revoked drivers.”
In 2011, AAA released an update to their original 2000 study, Unlicensed to Kill, at www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011Unlicensed2Kill.pdf. The study concluded once again that unlicensed drivers and drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked are significantly more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than drivers holding valid licenses.
The Oregon driver card would have a limited purpose and duration. It would prove only that cardholders have demonstrated knowledge of the rules of the road and have passed a driving test. It would not give cardholders additional rights or privileges associated with having regular Oregon driver licenses, like the ability to buy guns or obtain a concealed carry permit in Oregon, to board a plane, to vote or to receive any government benefits for which they are not otherwise eligible.
Members of the law enforcement community know full well the importance of this law, and they know the hazards unlicensed drivers can pose. In response to SB 833, Chief of Portland Police Bureau Mike Reese said, “This law will enhance the safety and well-being of all Oregon drivers.” Making sure everyone on our roads has valid driver’s certification will enable police to more readily identify drivers involved in accidents or violating traffic laws.
As a crime victim advocate, I learned that the more people are marginalized, the further they retreat to the shadows; the less they are marginalized, the more they will come forward. In my conversations with the immigrant community, some say a driver card will help give them more confidence when communicating with the government. If they witness crimes, they will be more willing to report them and testify, meaning more crimes will be prevented and solved. This law is about making our communities safer.
Next November, join me in voting Yes for SB 833, Referendum 301, and help make Oregonians safer.
Ron Louie, retired from a law enforcement career including chief of police in Hillsboro, is now spokesperson for Oregon Safe Roads Coalition. For more information, visit www.oregonsaferoads.org.
Senate Bill 833 would grant official driver privilege cards to illegal aliens.
The referendum to overturn this law was mobilized by Oregonians for Immigration Reform and the Protect Oregon Driver Licenses (PODL) Committee. On Oct. 18, the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office announced that the referendum qualified and would be placed on the November 2014 ballot.
Earlier this year, Gov. John Kitzhaber gave a speech on the steps of the state Capitol announcing he was forming “a diverse work group … to come together around changes in our driver’s license laws, allowing people to come out of the shadows and contribute to our state’s economic recovery. Oregonians need to be able to drive back and forth to their jobs.”
While I disagree with the governor that illegal aliens are “Oregonians,” I do agree that by giving them driver privilege cards, they will be able to drive back and forth to jobs. Jobs that, of course, they cannot legally hold, for employers who can’t legally hire them and using Social Security numbers stolen from American citizens. The governor ignores the fact that an estimated 120,000 illegal aliens are stealing jobs from citizens. He ignores the estimated 160,000 Oregon citizens out of work and Oregon’s U-6 unemployment rate — including part-time employees and marginally attached workers — of 16.9 percent. He can’t connect the dots between unemployment and easy availability of illegal labor to employers.
When we heard the governor’s May Day speech, we contacted his Citizens Representative Office and asked to become part of the “diverse work group” being formed. There followed a long, frustrating saga of requests, refusals and lies from the governor’s office and staff, and four Freedom of Information filings — all fruitless. As time went by, we discovered the governor’s work group had actually been meeting in secret for more than a year, with input only from those who stood to profit from the plans, either politically or personally.
The public interest was completely shut out. While citizens were barred from the secret meetings, officials from the Mexican Consular office were invited to participate.
SB 833 was quickly rammed through the Oregon Legislature without the usual hearings process, causing citizens to start a challenge to the bill almost immediately.
The required number of valid signatures for a referendum was 58,142. We collected more than 75,000 in a little more than three months, from towns and counties all over Oregon. In the first validation test by the Secretary of State, a 1,000-signature sample is taken, and 9.44 percent of the 1,000 are automatically deducted without examination on the assumption of at least 9.44 percent inaccuracy. However, after the first screening, the PODL referendum still had enough valid signatures to qualify — a rarity among initiatives. Our quick success was due to widespread indignation over SB 833.
As a result, Oregon voters will have the opportunity to decide the issue. There should be in-depth discussions allowing voters a chance to think about the issue and learn the true, serious ramifications and consequences of the bill. To this end, OFIR and the PODL Committee plan to expand their website in coming weeks and will be available to speak to civic groups.
Proponents of giving driver cards to illegal aliens claim it will make our roads safer. They have no data to back up these claims. The history of convictions among illegal aliens for drunk driving and drug gang involvement shows otherwise.
Granting official Oregon driver privilege cards to illegal aliens is not only dangerous, it undermines the rule of law on which our nation was founded. SB 833 should be voted down.
Jim Ludwick is communications director for Oregonians for Immigration Reform and the Protect Oregon Driver Licenses Committee. For more information, visit www.protectoregondl.org.