Bill: DMV could give licenses to people without legal immigration status

Bill: DMV could give licenses to people without legal immigration status

SALEM, Ore. – A bill that will allow the state Department of Motor Vehicles to issue short-term driver's licenses to people who can't show they are residents of the United States, including immigrants without legal status, was introduced Tuesday at the state Capitol.

In addition to certain immigrants, Senate Bill 833 will allow people such as the homeless and the elderly, who can't prove legal status, to get a special four-year driver's license. Supporters say the bill is aimed to improve traffic safety and reduce the number of people driving without insurance.

The bill has eight chief sponsors – four senators and four representatives and they are equally split between Republicans and Democrats.

The bill requires people to be able to prove their identity, date of birth and that they've lived in Oregon for at least a year.

People who want one of the licenses will need to complete all the usual requirements of obtaining one, which includes passing written and driving tests and obtaining car insurance, supporters say.

The idea is to allow people who can't prove legal residency to be able to drive to their places of work, worship and to their schools, legally.

"If we don't do something about it, by 2016 we will have close to 60 to 70,000 people driving without a license," said Francisco Lopez, executive director of the Oregon workers' rights group Causa. "We want our roads to be safe. We want them to have liability insurance. We want them to have a license. This is about safety. This is about making sure every Oregonian has the proper documentation when they are driving."

The nursery industry supports the bill because so many of its workers can't prove they're citizens.

But the president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Cynthia Kendoll, says giving people the ability to drive, who can't prove they're in the United States legally, is simply wrong even if the goal is making roads safer.

"It's against the law for them to work here.  And so you're just continuing to sort of legitimize and normalize their presence here,” she said. "So in the simplest terms, they're not supposed to be here, so why should they have a driver's license?"

She also admitted her group faces an uphill battle to stop the bill from becoming law.

A full list of what documents a person can use to prove residency will be determined by the DMV but will include evidence of an Oregon home address and tax returns.

If a person has a Social Security number, they'll need to supply it; otherwise, they won't have to state they aren't eligible for one.

The short-term license will not allow a person to obtain a concealed weapons permit, buy a gun, or transfer it.

It is intended for driving only and will not allow people to vote, board a plane, or obtain state or federal benefits they aren't eligible for, supporters say.

Instead of a designation of "limited term" stamped on temporary licenses for visiting students, the new license might carry the words "short term" in the lower right hand corner.

The eight chief sponsors are: Sens. Chip Shields, D-Portland, Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, Bill Hansell, R-Athena, Reps. Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland, Chris Harker, D-Washington County, Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, and Vic Gilliam, R-Molalla.