Oregon: immigrants protest license plan

On Dec. 31, Latino groups in Oregon turned in over 5,000 petition signatures to the state’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division in Salem, asking for a one-year delay in implementation of new rules that will require driver’s license applicants to show proof of legal residence starting on Feb. 4.

The change was mandated by Governor Ted Kulongoski in a Nov. 16 executive order, and the Oregon Transportation Commission drew up proposed emergency rules in December, revising and tightening the standards for obtaining, renewing or replacing a state driver’s license, permit or identification card. The transportation commission is expected to vote on final rules Jan. 18. “We are finding out through our outreach efforts that it’s not enough time to inform tens of thousands of people about the executive order,” said Ramon-Ramirez, president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), Oregon’s farmworkers’ union and the state’s largest Latino organization. (AP, Jan. 1, 4; Statesman Journal, Salem, Dec. 17)

Patty Wentz, Kulongoski’s spokeswoman, told the Statesman Journal newspaper on Jan. 3 that the executive order “absolutely” will not be delayed. “What the governor is basically saying to immigrants is, ‘I don’t care about you, and I don’t care about your rights,'” Ramirez said. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) spokesperson David House said the rules could also affect large numbers of US-born Oregonians because many names and dates of birth on the DMV’s records differ from the data held by the Social Security Administration.

Kulongoski has proposed an alternative plan that would create two types of licenses–one valid for identification and available only to those who can prove “legal presence,” and a secondary “driving only” card for those who cannot prove legal residence. But that plan has little legislative support. Utah is the only state with such a system. (AP, Jan. 1, 4) In New York state, Governor Elliott Spitzer proposed a similar license plan in late October–though with three tiers instead of two—but he dropped that plan last Nov. 14 under intense political pressure from his own Democratic Party. (Washington Times, Nov. 15)

From Immigration News Briefs, Jan. 6

See our last post on the politics of immigration.

See our special report, “Immigration & the Surveillance State.”

  1. driver license issue
    I am glad this necessary step will not be delayed. Let’s face it. Name and date of birth discrepancies between licence info and SS info, in most cases, can be sorted out simply. The only cases that would raise eyebrows are when a 22 year old male named Lopez uses a Social Security number belonging to a 54 year old female named Liebowitz … or perhaps a dead person.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t go far enough. We need to run SS verification on all persons seeking a job (even jobs that pay daily in cash), all persons seeking welfare or other entitlement grants, all persons entering public schools funded with taxpayer dollars, and certainly all persons registering to vote.

    Frankly, the idea of verifying SS credibility is such a no-brainer, I’m surprised it wasn’t started years ago. If it was, I doubt if any of us would be debating it (or protesting it) now.