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Biking and walking groups endorse ‘driver cards’ for undocumented immigrants

Posted by on October 1st, 2014 at 9:08 am

110617_nwg_026

A student driver in Washington, where citizenship status
isn’t required for state driving tests.
(Photo: Joint Base Lewis McChord)

Nonprofits that support road safety are backing a November ballot issue that would allow people who came to Oregon illegally to once again take driving tests and buy car insurance.

A public “yes” vote on Measure 88 would let undocumented Oregon residents get “driver’s cards” that let them drive legally, essentially restoring the system that was in place before 2007.

It’s not clear how many Oregon residents are now driving despite not having legal immigration status or licenses, but the number is almost certainly in the many thousands.

“People, when given the option to do the right thing, they will do it… they want to drive legally and safely.”
— Reyna Lopez, Causa

“This will promote safety on the road for everyone, regardless of how they choose to get around,” wrote Gerik Kransky, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance‘s advocacy director, in an email.

Measure 88 would “make sure that every single person who’s operating an automobile on our streets has had an opportunity to take a test at the DMV,” said Aaron Brown, president of Oregon Walks.

Kransky said in a phone call last week that the BTA’s board had agreed to endorse the ballot measure, joining Oregon Walks and the public transit advocates OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon in doing so.

“To think that somebody who’s illegally here is all of a sudden going to get religion and start obeying laws when they get a driver’s license is sort of ridiculous. They think they’re above the law.”
— Jim Ludwick, Oregonians for Immigration Reform

In every U.S. state, it’s a criminal offense to drive without both a license and basic car insurance. But insurers don’t typically sell policies to people who can’t prove that they’ve passed a driving test — and under current law, Oregon doesn’t conduct driving tests on people who lack a legal immigration status.

Reyna Lopez, the director of civic engagement for Latino immigrants’ advocacy group Causa, said that about 80,000 undocumented Oregon residents held driver’s licenses in 2007, when then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski used an executive order to block the state from issuing licenses to anyone without a legal status.

Many of those 80,000 people have continued driving using their old licenses, but one by one they’ve been expiring.

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Lopez said that in her work, “from Hermiston, Oregon, to Medford, Oregon, the first thing that families ask me is what is happening with the license.”

“People, when given the option to do the right thing, they will do it,” Lopez went on. “Everywhere we’ve gone, people have said they want the option to do the driver card. They want to drive legally and safely.”

Jim Ludwick, communications director for Oregonians for Immigration Reform and an opponent of illegal immigration and Measure 88, said in an interview that he doesn’t believe people who crossed a border illegally want to drive legally.

“To think that somebody who’s illegally here is all of a sudden going to get religion and start obeying laws when they get a driver’s license is sort of ridiculous,” Ludwick said. “They think they’re above the law. … I don’t pick and choose which laws to obey. Why do illegal aliens get to?”

Ludwick also said a car license is not always required to purchase car insurance. However, he said he wasn’t sure which companies are willing to insure unlicensed drivers.

If Measure 88 passes, undocumented residents who can prove they’ve lived in Oregon for at least one year would be able to get a “driver’s card” in the same way any new resident or driver would: by passing a written test if they have a valid license in another U.S. state, or by passing both written test and a behind-the-wheel test if they don’t have a valid license.

Washington and California are both among the U.S. states that allow undocumented immigrants to be legal drivers. Some people who work in the Portland area get licenses in Clark County in order to have one on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Brown, who serves as the volunteer president of the Oregon Walks board and is also actively working on the Measure 88 campaign in his day job as organizing coordinator for the Bus Project, said he sees support for Measure 88 as a chance to make Portland transportation activism less “astonishingly monocrhomatic.”

“This isn’t just about sharrows and bikes and a very narrow understanding of how transportation matters,” Brown said. “This is about getting to work on time, getting kids to school, getting family members to the doctor.”

You can read more about the case for and against Measure 88 at Vote Yes on 88 and Protect Oregon Driver Licenses.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Don Bredhippie9wattsF.W. de KlerkJagur Recent comment authors
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9watts
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9watts

“he doesn’t believe people who crossed a border illegally want to drive legally.”
That’s the best he can do?
Does Ludwick obey every single law on the books? Has he ever exceeded 55 (or 65)mph? Rolled through a stop sign? Inhaled? Fudged just a little on his taxes?

Many (most?) laws are eventually overturned because they were written by people who are fallible, have biases, want to provide advantages to their peers, and worse.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

All drivers having a license AND insurance is an important protection for vulnerable road users in Cascadia. Bicycle riding (and walking) in rural areas leaves many exposed to uninsured and unlicensed drivers. Rural mobility often is only by private car or labor transport…

I would recommend that in the future there be discussion of potential policies for implementing Measure 88 (if passed) that there be:
1) shorter time periods between renewals (annual?);
2) a documented link between the license being current AND active insurance (insurance companies required to notify DMV of lack of renewal/ policy start etc.); and
3) minimum insurance levels for this class of license to protect vulnerable roadway users be set to a higher level (increased risk of leaving the scene / risk of flight) or that a separate fund be set up through a fee on this class of licenses for vulnerable roadways users if an uninsured alien as driver has caused the collision, etc.

There should also be some requirement of Oregon employers of H-2a visa holders to link licenses and car insurance too.

Ok, feel free to talk amongst yourselves…

F.W. de Klerk
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F.W. de Klerk

I fail to see how this passing makes streets safer. And how will you convince people who have been successfully dodging paying for insurance to all of a sudden start coughing up money for premiums?

Aaron
Guest

Thanks for the write-up, Michael!

To win this measure, we’re going to need a lot of support, and we’re going to need a lot of folks spreading the word-of-mouth about why this sensible, progressive piece of immigration rights’ is the right thing to do for our communities, neighborhoods, and streets.

There are activities to help us win this measure every weekend, but I want to invite bikeportland readers to come to the Bus Project/Causa/Oregon Walks canvass the weekend of October 18. A couple weekends of door knocking and talking to neighbors might make the difference for this bill, which will make our streets safer and will be an important way to show support for transportation rights for all Oregonians.

Hope to see you on October 18, if not sooner!
https://www.facebook.com/events/1488833781371126/?notif_t=plan_user_joined

Jagur
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Jagur

I refuse to grant special driving priviliges to people who are not even here legaly. I will vote NO on 88

random
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random

“Measure 88 would “make sure that every single person who’s operating an automobile on our streets has had an opportunity to take a test at the DMV,” said Aaron Brown, president of Oregon Walks.”

Because if they flunk the test, I’m sure they’ll stop driving…

Jon
Guest
Jon

I really am sick of the term “undocumented”. When somebody stole my bike, did they become an “undocumented” owner? No, they were a thief. These people are breaking the law and living here illegally. I have worked with many people that followed the rules and became legal workers and citizens. It was difficult and took time but that is the law. Illegal workers depress the pay for all unskilled workers. Making their illegal stay in our country easier is not the answer. If I were pulled over and did not have a drivers licence I would expect to be arrested. If an illegal worker was pulled over I would hope that they were deported.

Spiffy
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Spiffy

it doesn’t solve the problem, but it helps a little, which is the most we can hope for… I’d rather that they be in the system and paying the fees instead of driving illegally… but I’d rather they not be driving at all…

and if they’re here illegally how do they not get deported when they’re applying for the Driving Card, or when they get a ticket?

9watts
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9watts

One can work toward a real, consistent immigration policy while treating people who are not here legally with dignity and respect. Saying vindictive things about these people who have families and aspirations, just like the rest of us, serves no useful purpose except to demonize the other.

Jagur
Guest
Jagur

9watts

So, giving somone the privilige to drive is a sign of dignity and respect?

Jagur
Guest
Jagur

I believe cars are responsible for most of societies ills, I really do. I also think the line with immigration has to be drawn somewhere. If life gets better because you can legally drive then it’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

Jagur
Guest
Jagur

And I will never feel like giving someone an easier path to driving is compassion. To me, it is realistic. If “we will figure it out one day” then why not start now? Making it easier to drive to work does not help long term.

redhippie
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redhippie

In other words, “disagree with my viewpoint and you are a racist”. Alternatively, maybe you could articulate why his position is inaccurate or suggest other options to address the underlying issues.

thank you.

Hart Noecker
“To think that somebody who’s illegally here is all of a sudden going to get religion and start obeying laws when they get a driver’s license is sort of ridiculous. They think they’re above the law.”
There’s so much blatant coded racism in this statement, I don’t even know where to begin.
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