Restoring Drivers Licenses for All: Safe Roads and a Strong Economy
CAUSA supports the restoration of driver’s license to all Oregon residents who meet the qualifications for a standard license, regardless of ability to prove citizenship or legal status.
In 2008, the Oregon Legislature passed a law requiring proof of citizenship or legal status to obtain an Oregon driver’s license. This law created unnecessary barriers for individuals to legally drive or purchase insurance and unnecessary costs and consequences for other drivers, insurance companies, homeowners, businesses and law enforcement. Currently, Causa is a member of the Governor’s Driver’s License Task force and is working with public safety officials, businesses, and government agencies to craft a solution.
The need for Driver’s License Restoration
Ensuring that all of Oregon’s drivers are licensed and insured is important both for public safety and for our economy. Although the full effect of the law will not be apparent until all previously issued licenses expire, community members are already struggling. A study sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation found that people reported difficulty opening and accessing a bank account, cashing checks, and making larger purchases.
- Shockingly, the DMV reports that the number of Spanish speakers taking and passing the Drivers License test dropped 90% after the new law went into effect in 2008.
- Furthermore, in a survey done by the Oregon Department of Transportation to study the effect of SB 1080, three quarters of respondents said they knew someone who drove without a license in Oregon. In the same survey, two thirds of those who reported not having a license identified the new requirements as a barrier.
- Over 50% of respondents said they were now giving rides to friends and family members who did not have drivers licenses.
Public safety for everyone increases when all drivers are tested, licensed, and insured. AAA statistics show that one of every five fatal crashes involves a driver who is definitely or possibly driving with an invalid license or no license.
Law enforcement officers will be able to easily identify drivers and can devote their scarce resources to more pressing public safety issues. According to Margaret Stock, associate professor of law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, “Refusing to give driver licenses to illegal immigrants means taking [them] out of the largest law enforcement database in the country. Thus, denial of licenses is a policy prescription that hampers law enforcement far more than it enhances it.”
Our Uninsured Future
Immigrants, documented or undocumented, are integral to the success of our economy. The 2009 purchasing power of Latinos in Oregon totaled $7.0 billion, and unauthorized workers in Oregon contribute on average between $134 million and $187 million in taxes a year. A labor market that is less mobile and consumers that are less confident and able to purchase products and services make it even harder for Oregon to climb out of the economic recession.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised over 5 % of the state’s workforce in 2010.
- In 8 years most of these workers drivers’ licenses will be expired, leaving roughly 80,000 people without recourse to consistent, legal, and insured transportation to work.
- Local business owners are already seeing decreased business due to the law, according to an interim report for the Oregon Department of Transportation:
“It used to be that almost every week someone would come to arrange a birthday dinner, or an anniversary, or some other event. Even twice a week. But now that doesn’t happen even once a month. Times are bad but worse because people are saving in case they lose a job. And if you stay home you will not have a problem with the police or anybody.” Restaurant Owner
- The lack of a driver’s license and an official ID is also preventing some from accessing bank accounts, loans, and other important services:
Without a driver’s license you are less likely to be able to rent apartments or homes in certain areas…..You’re taking people that have a lower socioeconomic standing and forcing them to, if they do need some kind of financial support, take out loans at twenty-thirty percent where if they had a driver’s license or some type of identification document…..they’d be able to access financial agencies that provided a more ethical situation for them.” Financial Services Auditor
Restoring access to driver’s license for all will allow Oregon to promote Latino immigrants’ productive and purchasing power, protect public safety and law enforcement, and provide for the continued economic recovery of Oregon.