by Sally Godard, Just Journey…a ministry of justice and advocacy, Yamhill County
In 2008, in an attempt to comply with the federal Real ID Act, the Oregon Legislature passed a law that has created a daily nightmare for many Oregon workers, their families, and their employers.
Although vigorously opposed by immigrant advocates, this Oregon law restricts driver’s licenses to those who can provide documents of their legal status in the state. No longer primarily a document to demonstrate one’s knowledge of the “rules of the road” and ability to pass the written and behind-the-wheel driver’s tests, the 2008 law now excluded immigrants without legal documents from obtaining or renewing a license.
The disastrous effect was immediate. Each year thousands of immigrants, many who had been here for a decade or more, were thrown into turmoil. Bread-winners who required transportation lost their jobs and employers lost experienced workers who could no longer buy insurance. Families lived in fear each day as they drove their kids to school, attended church, or kept a doctor’s appointment. If they were stopped by law enforcement and had no license, the risk of deportation was high. Yet especially in rural Oregon where there is very little public transportation, day-to-day life depended on being able to drive.