On Tuesday night, Oregon voters killed a ballot initiative that would have allowed undocumented immigrants in the state to apply for driver’s licenses. The ballot initiative known as Measure 88 would have given four-year driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants “without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States” and died with a vote of 68 -33 percent.
According to the ballot initiative, the driver’s license cards could not be used: to vote, to get government benefits, to use for air travel, or to buy firearms. As Politifact found, there is some confusion over whether the Transportation Security Administration would have allowed undocumented immigrants to board planes with the cards. Oregon’s Driver and Motor Vehicles Services division stated, “It will be up to the TSA or the individual airport to determine whether to accept the Driver Card as identification,” also noting that the state Senate bill could only be used for driving privileges. A Politifact interview with a TSA spokesperson found that the Oregon driver’s licenses would have been a valid form of identification to verify “that the person who shows the card is the person who is traveling.” Undocumented immigrants would also be required to provide “proof of residence in Oregon for more than one year, and has provided proof of identity and date of birth” and could show a foreign passport or consular document and proof of state residency.
Last year, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a state law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, but “Oregon became the first state to turn the issue of immigrant driver’s cards to voters” because interest groups like Oregonians for Immigration Reform and Protect Oregon Driver Licenses gathered enough signatures to put the measure up for a vote, the Associated Press reported.
Supporters of granting driver’s licenses said that it could make roads safer since drivers would have to take a road test and buy auto insurance. Opponents said that driver’s licenses would reward undocumented immigrants who had broken the law to get to the country. A statement by Oregonians for Immigration Reform said, “With the threat of international terrorism, the spread of Ebola and other third-world diseases, it’s vital to take all possible precautions in the control of immigration.”
The state’s agricultural industry has been supportive of the measure since many of the 160,000 undocumented immigrants living in Oregon work on farms and nurseries.
About ten states have made all undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for driver’s license cards, while 45 states have allowed driver’s licenses for those undocumented youths who qualify for President Obama’s 2012 executive action known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Supporters in other states have said that licensing drivers would in part provide greater safety and accountability by giving police the ability to identify motorists during stops; allowing first responders and health care providers the ability to use the license to identify the individuals they’re assisting; giving drivers more incentive to stay at the scene of an accident; and burdening courts and jails less with drivers who are there solely for driving without a license or insurance.