Driver Cards for Undocumented Workers

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Draft City Club Report Recommends “Yes” Vote on Driver Cards Referendum

Oregon driving privileges should be based on the ability to drive safely, know the rules of the road and obtain auto insurance, not on immigration status


(Portland, Ore.) The City Club of Portland today released a draft research report that recommends voters affirm an Oregon law that allows the State Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver card to Oregon residents who cannot prove legal presence in the United States. The referendum will appear on the November 4 ballot, and a “Yes” vote on Ballot Measure 88 would support the law.

If approved by City Club members, the recommendation will become one of the earliest and highest-profile endorsements about the measure, which Oregonians will vote on in November. A committee of eight City Club member-volunteers spent four months studying the issue.

It unanimously concluded that Oregon should not wait for comprehensive national immigration reform before taking steps to ensure public safety on state roads.

“The state does not have a role in enforcing federal immigration law, but it does have the responsibility for creating laws that govern who may be allowed to drive in the state in order to promote public safety,” the draft report states.

The committee found important potential benefits from regulating unauthorized immigrants who wish to drive. For example, those drivers would be required to pass the standard vision and driving tests, thereby likely increasing safety on the roads. They also must have insurance, as all drivers must. And the committee reviewed persuasive evidence that the cards, which include photographs that enable facial recognition, would aid law enforcement.

Oregon would join 10 other states plus the District of Columbia in offering driving privileges to undocumented residents.

“Witnesses kept bringing the discussion back to federal immigration reform, but that is not the question on the ballot,” said Committee Chair Andy Shaw. “Oregon’s job is to keep its residents safe, and this law, which passed the Legislature with broad and bipartisan support, does that.”

Opponents of the law submitted 58,000 valid signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot. The Oregon Secretary of State will assign it a measure number on August 1.

The committee interviewed witnesses on both sides of the issue and reviewed relevant documents. The full draft report, which includes a witness list and citations, is available online at http://www.pdxcityclub.org/ballotmeasures-drivercard.

Member-volunteers who served on the committee were Andy Shaw (chair), Amy Sample Ward (co-chair), Ellen Knutson (lead writer), David Dickson, Anna Ellermeier, Ellen Gehringer, Tom Iverson and Sharon VanSickle-Robbins. Cory Streisinger served as the committee’s research adviser.

City Club members will debate and vote on this and nine other election-related recommendations at a “Ballot-Palooza” from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on Wednesday, August 20 at the Village Ballroom at the Oregon Public House (700 NE Dekum St.). The event will be open to the public, but only City Club members may vote on the recommendations. For more information on the event visit: http://bit.ly/BallotPalooza2014. Outcomes of the votes will be published on the City Club of Portland's website and reported in the City Club Bulletin, released August 26.

This year, City Club’s ballot measure research and recommendation will reach more Oregonians than ever before. Committees started their work earlier than in past election years in order to finish in time for the Club to place its adopted recommendations in the State Voters Pamphlet that will go out to all registered voters prior to the election.

City Club member-volunteers have researched more than 400 state and local ballot measures since 1916. City Club’s Research Board screened all researcher applicants for conflicts of interest, and participants affirmed that they are unbiased on the ballot measure they sought to study.

City Club of Portland brings together civic-minded people to make Portland and Oregon better places to live, work and play for everyone. For more information about City Club of Portland, visit www.pdxcityclub.org or call 503-228-7231. Follow us on twitter @pdxcityclub and on facebook.