From the Field

Fight continues for driver cards in Oregon despite setback


Lauren Taylor • Nov 10, 2014
Nathalie Marquez holds a sign modeled after an Oregon driver's license at a May rally in Salem.
Nathalie Marquez holds a sign modeled after an Oregon driver's license at a May rally in Salem.

“Our communities organized in a way and at a scale we haven’t seen before in this state. Latinos, immigrants, people of color, women, young people, and the LGBTQ community came together to register, educate, and turnout voters across the state.”

On Tuesday, Oregon voters repealed a law that would have expanded access to driving for immigrants residing in the state. The law would have provided a 4 year driving permit to Oregon residents regardless of immigration status, and was passed and signed by the governor in 2013. Last fall anti-immigrant organizations collected just enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, and Oregon residents Tuesday (52% of those eligible) voted down the measure by a 2-to-1 margin.

An uphill battle

“We have known from the beginning that this was going to be a very difficult campaign,” said Andrea Miller, executive director of Causa, Oregon’s statewide Latino immigrant rights organization. “While victory is out of reach for us at the moment, we also know that this is just the beginning.”

Despite an under-resourced campaign, thousands of volunteers and organizers across the state mobilized to defend driver’s cards. The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon played a critical role in advocating for driver’s cards and getting out the vote.

On Thursday, executive director Joseph Santos Lyons affirmed APANO’s ongoing partnership with Causa, and the continuing need for equal access to driver cards: “Nothing has changed the need for all drivers to be tested and insured, to be able to take care of their families.”

Oregon was one of eight states that passed laws expanding access to driver’s cards and driver’s licenses in 2013. The wave of inclusive state legislation last year means that 10 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia now offer driver’s licenses or cards regardless of immigration status. Oregon would have brought the total to eleven.

Who Counts?

Oregonians for Immigration Reform, the lead anti-immigrant group in Oregon, led efforts to overturn the driver’s card law. OFIR president Cynthia Kendoll is well-connected the national anti-immigrant movement, and in the closing weeks of the campaign she called immigration “an organized assault on our culture.” Such bigotry is not incidental – the broader anti-immigrant movement is steeped in white nationalism and is locked in a long-term fight over who counts as American.

The coalition built by the Yes on 88 campaign challenged such bias and insisted on recognizing the dignity and humanity of all Oregon residents.

“The essence of my work is to make sure ALL people have equal rights; without leaving anyone behind,” said Causa organizer Christian B. as part of the #100 Stories campaign. “I feel that everyone should have the right to drive where they need to without fear.”

The #100DaysofStories lifted up the voices of Oregon residents who spoke boldly for equal access, and shared the personal importance and impact driver’s cards would have on their lives.

“Our communities organized in a way and at a scale we haven’t seen before in this state,” explained Miller. “Latinos, immigrants, people of color, women, young people, and the LGBTQ community came together to register, educate, and turnout voters across the state for Measure 88.”

The Yes on 88 campaign mobilized thousands and built unprecedented coalitions. The fight for equal access, and against the racist right wing, continues.

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