Safety, security stressed with HB 2015
There wasn't much discussion about this legislative bill. In fact, its signing was sort of a celebrated hush-hush.
But on Friday, Aug. 9, Gov. Kate Brown came to Woodburn and signed House Bill 2015 before roughly 200 people around the PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) and CAPACES Leadership Institute offices, granting undocumented immigrants a pathway toward getting a noncommercial driver license, permit or identification card.
It was a celebratory moment for those on hand. CAPACES Executive Director Jaime Arredondo summed it up in one word: "Jubilant!"
"This was a really big moment for us," said PCUN Executive Director Reyna Lopez. "We had over 200 community members here. The look of smiles on everyone and the feeling of togetherness was (enveloping). We felt like we did something right.
"The governor was right here and signed it into law."
Lopez explained that while it was a special moment for those on hand, it was also a selective one. She said the agitation, both locally and nationally, that had been well publicized in recent weeks rendered a healthy dose of caution to the affair.
Events such as the previous weekend's shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio and Gilroy, California, were still fresh in everyone's minds, as were the protest and counter-protest mobs of far-right and anti-fascist groups anticipated in Portland on Saturday, Aug. 17.
"As hard things have been nationally ... with the shootings in El Paso and the raids in Mississippi, it was nice to have something to feel good about here in Woodburn," Lopez said. "It was a day of celebration and it felt like that here. It's good to have a day when we can celebrate as a community."
One group that wasn't celebrating was Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), which issued a press release in opposition the next day titled "Illegal alien driver licenses undermine U.S. law, betray voters' mandate."
In the press release OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll criticized the signing.
"In 2014, our group spearheaded the ballot measure via which Oregonians, by a two-to-one margin, rejected the 2013 Legislature's approval of 'driver cards' for foreigners here illegally," Kendoll said. "Yesterday, when she signed House Bill 2015, Gov. Brown told those Oregonians what their vote meant to her and to her accomplices in the Legislature: absolutely nothing."
One of the bill's chief sponsors, Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), said a primary impetus for the law is public safety.
As an example, Roblan said when he spent considerable time in the Cook Island, near New Zealand, he had to get a driver license — in part because people there drive on the other side of the road.
"This allows them to learn the rules of the road, to test for a driver license and to get insured," Roblan said. "Otherwise, they drive illegally and everyone is at risk."
The senator also pointed out that driver licenses are key identification documents, the first thing police ask for when they make contact with someone. Having immigrants signed up with either a license or an identification card will make it easier to keep track of who is in the country.
"This was the perfect opportunity for the state to form a nexus to the federal requirement of getting a license as identification for getting on an airplane," Roblan said, citing Homeland Security's REAL ID Act, which requires "a real ID card, which is usually the driver's license."
The Homeland Security website defines it as follows:
"The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act's minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft."
There are currently 12 states and the District of Columbia that issue driver licenses to those who are unable to provide proof of lawful presence in the United States.
Beneficiaries of the new law include agricultural entities, as many immigrants find work in that business. Supporters of the bill include farmworkers unions, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Causa, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Oregon Farm Bureau.
At PCUN, hopes are that it's another step toward welcoming hard-working immigrants and affording them the means to survive.
"Anywhere I go in the state this is the first question people asked of me: 'What's going on with the driver licenses?" Lopez said. "This is a really a good step forward for Oregon and the nation.
"I think it sends a message that we need to find a pathway to legalizing hardworking people," she added. "People need driver licenses: they need it to get to work; they need it to get kids to school; they need it to get to church — all the places people need to go."
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