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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.

Confirmed Cases: 10817

Reported Deaths: 224
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah260872
Marion169751
Washington167620
Clackamas89425
Umatilla8346
Union3631
Lincoln3494
Lane2533
Malheur2351
Deschutes2240
Polk16612
Linn16510
Yamhill1649
Jackson1570
Jefferson1370
Klamath1311
Morrow1191
Benton986
Hood River980
Wasco971
Josephine611
Douglas560
Clatsop550
Coos480
Columbia450
Lake220
Crook150
Tillamook150
Wallowa110
Curry90
Baker80
Sherman30
Harney20
Gilliam10
Grant10
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 292560

Reported Deaths: 6718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1232563643
Riverside21957515
Orange20225376
San Diego17842406
San Bernardino16586293
Imperial7464125
Fresno728184
Alameda7245142
San Joaquin581761
Kern575987
Santa Clara5552165
Tulare5298148
Sacramento477678
Contra Costa424186
San Francisco407150
Ventura385850
Santa Barbara380830
San Mateo3743111
Marin323226
Stanislaus300450
Kings282338
Monterey227017
Solano192227
Merced162311
Sonoma148714
Placer97011
Madera8578
San Luis Obispo8453
Yolo76028
Santa Cruz5033
Napa4534
Sutter3234
San Benito3042
Butte2954
El Dorado2800
Lassen2670
Shasta1715
Humboldt1574
Nevada1551
Yuba1543
Glenn1530
Lake1001
Colusa980
Mendocino980
Tehama981
Calaveras610
Del Norte580
Tuolumne580
Mono491
Amador350
Inyo341
Siskiyou330
Mariposa311
Plumas150
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
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