Home»Beyond the Valley»Undocumented Immigrants May Be Able To Get Oregon Driver’s Licenses

Undocumented Immigrants May Be Able To Get Oregon Driver’s Licenses

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Oregon legislators are currently considering legislation that would make obtaining a driver’s license a possibility for any resident of Oregon, regardless of their immigration status.

Of course, anyone looking to get a driver’s license will still need to pass a driver’s test and meet the other DMV requirements. For the estimated 100,000 undocumented immigrants in the state, the chance to earn a driver’s license could mean the difference between staying with their families and being separated from them.

According to Andrea Williams, executive director of the immigration rights group Causa, a driver’s license is a fundamental need for any family.

“Driver’s licenses are such a core, basic need for families. While we may disagree what to do federally about immigration reform, families should not be separated over a traffic stop,” said Williams.

Currently, twelve states and the District of Columbia grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Oregon has been vacillating on this type of legislation for quite a while. For years, Oregon was one of eight states in the country that granted licenses to immigrants without proof of residence. However, state lawmakers reversed this policy in 2008 to comply with federal ID laws. In 2013, there was another push to reinstate licenses for undocumented immigrants, but that law never took effect. The issue was put to the ballot and voters in Oregon repealed the measure 66 to 34 percent.

For the current proposed legislation, an emergency clause would immediately implement it should lawmakers choose to pass it. Williams says that the immediate implementation is essential for the livelihood of undocumented immigrants in the state because of the impending enaction of the 2005 federal Real ID Act.

The Real ID Act, which was passed after 9/11, lays out minimum security standards for state IDs. It requires that anyone looking to enter a federal building or board a domestic flight without a passport present these enhanced IDs. This requirement will go into effect in just over one year, on Oct. 1 2020. As is the practice in many other states, Oregon will construct a two-tier identification system to comply with the federal act.

In this system, the state will issue both Real IDs and standard driver’s licenses, which are federally non-compliant. The Department of Homeland Security allows for those without documentation proving their lawful presence in the U.S. to receive non-compliant cards. In addition to some of the estimated 43.3 million foreign-born people living in the country, victims of domestic violence and people experiencing homelessness can use non-compliant cards.

At least 12 other states in the country are considering a similar change that would give undocumented immigrants these additional opportunities.

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