Representative Flores and Thatcher on Immigration Reform

Passing the Buck on Driver’s License Security
in Oregon

Press Release
by State Representative Linda Flores and Kim Thatcher

Oregonians deserve a secure system for drivers’ licenses but it won’t happen any time soon in Salem. Thursday the House and Senate Transportation Committees will discuss the February 2008 “emergency” Legislative Session. The deadline to draft bills is just weeks away, but illegal immigration is not on the radar.

Our prediction for 2008: legislative leaders won’t bring Oregon into compliance with new federal guidelines but they will attempt to issue “driving privileges” to people here illegally. The legislature should do the right thing so our citizens can board airplanes, enter federal buildings and use their drivers’ licenses in other states.
Governor Kulongoski and Democrat lawmakers recently realized Oregon has become a magnet for people without legal presence seeking drivers’ licenses. They now recognize this creates a black market for phony documents, spreads identity theft, encourages drug trafficking and threatens national security. Last weekend, three illegal immigrants were pulled over on I-5 with a half-million dollars worth of cocaine and meth, one of the largest busts
in years.

Memo to the Ds in Salem: “better late than never”. We’ve been pushing for immigration reform for years. In 2005 a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent told legislators due to lax drivers’ license laws, “literally tens of thousands of people were smuggled into Oregon solely for the purpose of obtaining Oregon identification.” Last year the Governor’s State ID taskforce warned the current policies increase “the risk that DMV will issue license and identification cards to people who aren’t who they say they are and that more “˜fraudsters’ will come to Oregon from out of state.” What about the case in Hillsboro where 80,000 illegal immigrants might have acquired Oregon drivers’ licenses and IDs with fake documents?

Since we all seem to understand the problem, it’s time Democrats controlling the Legislature join us for the solution. We hope they’ll implement the updated federal regulations in 2008. So far they’ve passed the buck back to the Governor, expecting his administrative powers to fix everything. DMV has said repeatedly they can’t verify legal status without legislative action.

The Governor now wants a two-tiered approach. It’s insincere for the Governor to launch a new ID theft program and brag about the anti-terrorist drill at the same time he’s pitching a plan to give illegal immigrants a special driving-only certificate. What about his campaign pledge to “ensure nonresidents don’t obtain” drivers’ licenses? Tennessee, one of the only states to try this dual approach, repealed their law because it caused all sorts of graft and corruption.

A secondary license seems irresponsible and sends a mixed message. Law abiding residents would meet a higher threshold compared to those who are breaking the law.

Instead of $15 million in raises for bureaucrats, the Governor could put that money toward enhanced security for our drivers’ licenses and forget about a double standard for illegal immigrants.

We can’t wait any longer. The feds have given states an extension until 2013, but we need to act quickly if we’re going to meet that deadline.