Driver License Restoration: SB833

images-4Simple. Safe. And Sane.  Restore Driver Licenses To Good Drivers

SB-833 is called the Oregon Temporary Driver License bill.  It was introduced in the Oregon legislature on April 2, 2013 and then referred for committee work.  A public hearing is scheduled for April 11, 2013 at the Oregon Capitol building in Salem.  The bill brings some needed sanity to the Driver License debate.

What does the proposed bill say? SB-833 is a proposal to issue a 4-year driver license to any competent Oregon resident who passes the driver test and can prove residency in Oregon for at least one year.   Individuals who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States are eligible for licensing as drivers under this proposal.

Why change the law?  Currently, individuals who cannot prove their legal presence in the United States cannot obtain an Oregon driver license in Oregon.   Current Oregon law uses the driver license as an immigration document rather than a test of driving competency.  That is, instead of focusing on whether an individual is competent to drive, Oregon law restricts the license to drive based on immigration status – something that does not have anything to do with a person’s ability to drive safely and sanely.  If SB-833 passes, eligible applicants who have passed the state-mandated test will have to pay $74 for a 4-year license, after which it will cost $54 to renew.

Let’s get it rolling!  On April 1st Causa, the statewide immigrant rights coalition, launched a week-long campaign to advocate for the bill and ILG was there.  Team ILG (as we call ourselves), Causa, and members of the Oregon Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association were at the state capitol in Salem pushing for driver license restoration.   Backing the bill are industry leaders from Oregon’s wine, agriculture, farming, dairy and nursery business, along with immigration advocates from Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste (PCUN), Causa, AILA, ILG and others.

The bill isn’t perfect.  The current Oregon-issued 8-year licenses cost $60. Advocates are frustrated that the license is limited to four years and will also be marked with a still-to-be-defined distinguishing detail. There is good cause for concern that these differences could lead to further discrimination against communities that already suffer from so much discrimination. Nevertheless, SB-833 represents years of compromise and could set the foundation and precedence for something even better.

ILG, AILA and Causa spent most of Tuesday April 2 visiting the offices of all the Oregon state senators and representatives, passing information about the benefits of SB-833 and asking that they vote in favor of the bill. Between our three organizations, we managed to visit every state office. It was a successful lobbying effort that only marked the beginning of the work to come, but a strong start it was!

What now?  On April 11th at 3:00 PM there will be public hearing at the capitol. Letters supporting SB-833 will be read.  The complete bill can be found at http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/2013/SB833/.  For more information about contacting your Senator and Representative, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/.

What’s the law today? Currently, to obtain an Oregon license, one must prove their legal presence in the U.S., their identity and date of birth. This has an extremely adverse affect on the immigrant, elderly and homeless population. SB-833 acknowledges everyone needs a way to get to work, school, transport their children and families, attend church and participate in the community and for many people, this means driving without a license. What many people opposed to this bill seem to forget is that if an individual and her family’s livelihood depend on car to get around, with or without a license, she will drive. This, though it may be a necessity, makes Oregon roads less safe and makes it more difficult for unlicensed drivers to purchases insurance. Uninsured drivers cost Oregon approximately $84 million dollars last year. SB-833 recognizes that we can make our roads safer and reduce the burden of paying for uninsured drivers by offering every Oregon resident the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license.

Currently, the undocumented immigrant population suffers a much greater cost of violating a minor traffic law when they are pulled over and found to be driving without a license. Such a minor incident is all too often the impetus for an undocumented immigrant to be brought before immigration authorities. For safer roads and for greater equality, Oregon must join the small group of five other states and extend driver’s licenses to all Oregon residents.