Big Win for Oregon’s Undocumented Immigrants

Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

This spring, two bills pertinent to Oregon’s undocumented immigrant community were signed into law. On April 2, Governor Kitzhaber signed off on House Bill 2787—known as the “tuition equity” bill—which grants in-state tuition to students who have attended school in Oregon for five or more years. And at a May Day rally on Wednesday, May 2, Kitzhaber sat at the steps of the Capitol building in Salem and signed Senate Bill 833 to much fanfare. This bill gives driver cards to applicants who cannot provide documentation of legal residency, but can provide proof of an Oregon residency of at least one year. Unlike a driver’s license, the driver card cannot be used as identification to purchase firearms, fly, or vote.

A crowd of almost 2,000 people—some waving signs reading “Keep Families Together”—cheered on the governor as he signed the bill into law. Supporters of the bill consider it a public safety measure—encouraging more licensed and insured drivers—and argue that legalizing driving for undocumented immigrants allows them to be more active, and safer, participants in their communities. An inability to legally drive stifles the movements of many immigrants, who face increased obstacles to attend church, buy their groceries, or even pick up their kids from school. The bill is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Opponents of the bill, like the group Oregonians for Immigration Reform, hope to gather the necessary 58,000+ signatures to challenge the law with a referendum in November 2014. However, support seems to largely favor of the bill—it passed 20-7 in the Senate and 47-7 in the House.

By Mica Habarad