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Oregon Voters Reject Drivers Cards for Undocumented Immigrants

Oregon voters rejected a ballot measure that would have issued government ID cards to those without citizenship or legal presence.

Oregon voters have rejected a ballot measure that would have granted government-issued driver cards to immigrants who cannot prove they are in the country legally. 

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill into law last year that would have made four-year driver cards available to residents, regardless of their immigration status. A petition-gathering effort suspended the law and placed it on the ballot (as Measure 88).

The card could not have been used to enter a federal building, to register to vote or to get any government benefit that requires proof of citizenship or legal presence. However, a reporter from PolitiFact Oregon found that the ballot title contained inaccurate information about whether the cards could be used as a valid form of identification for air travel. Officials from the Transportation Security Administration said they planned to accept the driver cards, somewhat undermining claims that the cards would serve only a narrow set of uses.

The measure's loss is consistent with most public polling released before the election. For example, about 67 percent of likely voters in Oregon said they would be voting against the driver card measure in an August poll by NW Market Research.

Supporters of the law argued the cards would be a boon to public safety by making sure that undocumented immigrants who get behind the wheel have passed a driving test and know the rules of the road. They also asserted that if undocumented immigrants possessed driver cards, they'd be more likely to buy liability insurance.

The Oregon legislature passed its driver card bill at the same time that states across the country considered a range of policies designed to help undocumented immigrants. Since 2013, lawmakers in Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and New Jersey have decided to extend in-state college tuition to young undocumented immigrants. This year, Washington state made state education grants and scholarships available to undocumented immigrants.

Following President Barack Obama's executive order to give temporary legal status to certain young undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, at least 45 states determined that the DACA immigrants could also receive driver's licenses.

Much of the state legislative action happened parallel to efforts in the U.S. Senate to combine tighter border security measures with a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Many state lawmakers argued that their proposals would serve as intermediate solutions until Congress passes a comprehensive immigration law.

J.B. Wogan is a Governing staff writer.
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