In the final day of the session, the Oregon Senate passed House Bill 2015, a measure that will allow illegal immigrants and other Oregonians who can’t prove their legal residence status to get an Oregon driver’s license.
We can appreciate the arguments supporters make for the measure. While the new law will undoubtedly benefit illegal immigrant workers and their employers, we regret the state has been forced to act where Congress has refused.
Anyone now applying for an Oregon driver’s license must provide proof of legal presence in the United States, proof of full legal name and proof of current address.
In July 2020 the state will begin offering, as an option, commercial and noncommercial driver’s licenses and identity cards that meet strict federal standards, the so-called Real ID. To obtain Real ID-compliant documents, the applicant will have to provide proof of legal presence, date of birth, legal name, Social Security number and address.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, anyone boarding a commercial aircraft or entering a secure federal facility must have a Real ID or a passport.
HB 2015 provides that on Jan. 1, 2021, the Department of Transportation will no longer require proof of legal presence to issue a standard, non-Real ID noncommercial Oregon driver’s license. Applicants for non-Real ID commercial licenses would still have to prove legal presence.
It is essentially a recasting of Measure 88, a ballot initiative supported by many agriculture groups that failed to win voter approval in 2014.
Supporters say issuing licenses to illegal immigrants will make Oregon roads safer because they will have to pass the written and driving test. Having a license will make it more likely they will obtain the required insurance. That’s all good.
The licenses will allow illegal immigrants to legally drive to their jobs — jobs that they cannot legally hold.
Eighty percent or more of farm workers are in the country illegally and are ineligible for legal employment. They present forged or appropriated credentials — licenses, Social Security cards and immigration documents — to employers, who in turn accept them in good faith. As long as an employer has no knowledge that a worker is ineligible the law holds the employer harmless.
It is a wink-and-a-nod arrangement made necessary by a severe labor shortage and an immigration system hopelessly mired in politics. We hope HB 2015 doesn’t make it harder for employers to pull off the charade.
We continue to believe that federal reform should have been the first step in the normalization of the status of illegal immigrants. Action by Congress would have made HB 2015 unnecessary.
But, congressional inaction made the Legislature’s action inevitable.