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Oregon advances bill allowing undocumented immigrants to drive

The measure, known as the Equal Access to Roads Act, would expand driving privileges to all Oregon residents regardless of their immigration status.

Posted: Jun 18, 2019 2:17 PM
Updated: Jun 18, 2019 2:17 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Undocumented immigrants may soon be able to drive in Oregon after the House voted 39-21 Tuesday to remove proof of legal status as a requirement for obtaining a driver's license.

The measure, known as the Equal Access to Roads Act, would expand driving privileges to all Oregon residents regardless of their immigration status. Applicants would still have to show they live in Oregon and pass the driver's test to get a license.

Supporters said the move would make roads safer and lead to less hit-and-run accidents and encourage more drivers to purchase auto insurance. Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, a Democrat from Woodburn, said that many undocumented immigrants without licenses can't find work and are barred from doing "everyday activities" out of fear that they would be deported over a traffic stop.

"Not having a driver's licenses means that people cannot take themselves or their kids to the doctor's office or get the medication they need at the pharmacy," she said. "Imagine the pain and frustration that parents must feel when they can't do that simple task, a simple task like going to the grocery store."

The plan still needs Senate approval but, if passed, Oregon would join over a dozen other states and the District of Columbia in allowing undocumented immigrants to drive. This week, New York became the 13th state to approve such a measure. New Jersey is also considering the idea.

The move comes as Oregon prepares to implement the 2005 federal Real ID Act, completely overhauling the state's identification system. Beginning in July 2020, in addition to standard driver's licenses, Oregon will begin formally rolling out new security-enhanced identification cards that will be necessary to enter federal buildings and board a domestic flight without a passport.

Supporters of the Oregon bill say that legal status shouldn't be a requirement for standard licenses, which are considered "non-compliant" with new federal regulations.

Proof of legal status is required for Real IDs, and the Department of Homeland Security has ruled that it would allow states to issue non-compliant driver's licenses to applicants for whom "lawful presence is not determined."

Licenses for undocumented immigrants isn't a new concept for Oregon. For years, the state was only one of eight in the nation to grant licenses to those who couldn't prove legal status. Lawmakers initially reversed the practice in 2008 to comply with federal ID laws, then backtracked and voted to reinstate licenses for undocumented immigrants in 2013.

But that 2013 law never took effect, because opponents were able to put the issue to the ballot. Oregon voters overwhelmingly repealed the measure 66% to 34%.

Repealing the bill this time will be much harder thanks to the measure's emergency clause that would make the measure immediately law upon passage, something Republicans opposed.

"Let's keep our system of documentation honest, real and responsive to the wishes of the people," said Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Independence. "Let's continue to insist that we only issue documentation to people that are in the country legally."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 66333

Reported Deaths: 826
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15240213
Washington903896
Marion8436130
Clackamas547276
Umatilla415648
Lane389037
Jackson343623
Malheur231839
Deschutes195514
Yamhill158216
Linn127518
Polk107615
Douglas82215
Jefferson77311
Benton7197
Union7172
Klamath6854
Morrow6257
Lincoln56513
Wasco47918
Josephine4434
Columbia4383
Coos3901
Hood River3661
Clatsop3350
Baker2593
Crook1986
Grant1231
Tillamook1120
Curry1052
Lake1010
Harney871
Wallowa702
Sherman230
Gilliam210
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1128219

Reported Deaths: 18753
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles3706367446
San Bernardino851761129
Riverside815651413
San Diego72815968
Orange711161554
Kern38519445
Fresno36315471
Sacramento33421546
Santa Clara31103464
Alameda27622499
San Joaquin24649503
Contra Costa22482258
Stanislaus20658418
Tulare19818303
Ventura18105174
Imperial15257355
San Francisco14542158
Monterey13887114
San Mateo13334169
Sonoma11486155
Merced10986176
Santa Barbara10946133
Kings1011586
Solano936380
Marin7560128
Placer607167
Madera588580
San Luis Obispo566435
Yolo425775
Shasta410042
Santa Cruz389627
Butte371259
Napa277817
Sutter267713
El Dorado19304
San Benito174615
Yuba173210
Lassen14803
Tehama145723
Mendocino142422
Nevada10529
Lake83418
Glenn8326
Humboldt7849
Tuolumne7848
Colusa6426
Mono4993
Siskiyou4951
Amador45016
Calaveras43421
Inyo27916
Del Norte2731
Plumas1770
Modoc1140
Trinity1140
Mariposa1122
Alpine420
Sierra170
Unassigned00
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