Iimmigrants without legal documentation could get Oregon driver’s licenses if legislators approve a bill filed Tuesday.
Senate Bill 833 would create a new four-year, “short-term” license for those who meet all other license requirements except proof of legal residence.
Although the licenses would carry an unspecified “distinguishing feature,” there can be little doubt that they would be confused with standard licenses and further hamper efforts to distinguish legal from residents from those here illegally. It’s not the right way to solve the nation’s immigration problem.
Supporters say the change would improve public safety because immigrants who are here illegally could be licensed and insured drivers. The Oregonian reports the bill came from a work group convened by Gov. John Kitzhaber, and is a priority of Latino groups, who argue it would help the state’s economy by allowing Oregon residents to get to work and to participate fully in the economy.
Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, anticipated this bill when she wrote in the Keizertimes, a community newspaper, last fall. She said similar legislation had been defeated in a previous session, but the governor’s support could increase its chances in 2013.
Thatcher said current law is important in the battle against identity theft and fraud, and that immigrants who are here illegally “are breaking the law by being in the country. Why should we encourage their actions by issuing a state-sanctioned permission slip to stay here?” she wrote.
She worried that agencies would accept the new driver’s licences “as a legitimate form of ID, opening doors to other services, whether it’s bank accounts, welfare benefits, you name it.”
Indeed, SB 833 doesn’t do enough to prevent such confusion. It leaves to the Department of Motor Vehicles the task of labeling the licenses. The Oregonian reports one idea is to print “Short Term” in a corner of the new licenses. That’s clearly insufficient.
Immigration reform is a critical national need, but it shouldn’t be handled piecemeal by state legislatures in a way that further confuses legal and illegal. Legislators should once again say no to this idea.