Immigrants should get driver’s licenses


Regarding Richard F. LaMountain’s “In My View” on the 2008 decision by Oregon to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, this change was a disproportionate and simplistic response to a series of issues begging for thoughtful and comprehensive solutions at all levels of government.

The change was supposed to make Oregonians safer from drug dealers and other criminals who were using the permissive policy to broaden their illicit operations. What it did was make it easier for police to simply “disappear” otherwise innocent and hard-working immigrants who could not produce a license if stopped for alleged and usually inconsequential violations by turning them over to federal authorities for deportation. The result has been a catastrophe for families whose breadwinners were whisked away without any notice, warning or explanation of the disappearance. In fact, the change was an invitation to harass immigrants, many of whom are here legally. Some law enforcement officials noted that the resulting uncertainties made immigrants fearful to report crimes because of the possible consequences.

In short, denying drivers’ licenses has created no real increase in public safety and security, at an intolerable human cost being borne by people just struggling to feed their kids. Let’s put Oregon in the vanguard of states pushing for humane and comprehensive immigration reform, and let’s begin by supporting Governor Kitzhaber’s plan to restore the issuance of driver’s licenses to hard-working immigrants.

Jeffrey Richardson

Bend