May 1 is traditionally a day to demonstrate in favor of workers’ and immigrants’ rights. In Salem, thousands gather at the capital every year. This May Day however, was particularly historic.
Advocates of immigrants’ rights from all around the state were witness to a bill becoming a law this morning. Governor John Kitzhaber signed SB 833—a bill granting some undocumented immigrants the right to obtain driver's cards— right on the front steps of the capital.
Earlier this session, these same advocates saw another major legislative victory. A bill was approved to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public Oregon universities.
The driver cards provided under SB 833 are valid for four years (half as long as a standard Oregon license). Qualifiers include those who can’t prove legal residence, but have lived in Oregon for at least a year, and comply with all other drivers’ requirements.
At the rally, Kitzhaber called the measure “a bi-partisan, common sense solution.” He also thanked both parties for working together with the Department of Motor Vehicles, farm and labor groups, and law enforcement to help develop the plan.
Young mother of three Fabiola Sanchez, came to Oregon in 2000 from Oaxaca, Mexico. Today she drove to Salem from Woodburn for the demonstration. She says that in her community you don’t need to read the newspaper every day to know that big things are going on in the legislature. According to her, all her friends and family have been talking about this bill.
“We’re good people” says Sanchez. “We’re not criminals, we came here to get our dreams, we love this state, and we love the United States.” Fabiola works at a nursery, and says the driver card bill will positively affect a ton of people in her community.
Before making his exit, Governor Kitzhaber recited the standard American ideals of “if we work hard, we can do better for ourselves and for our kids.”
“Today we are here to keep those promises” says Kitzhaber.
Those who voted against the bill were worried it would be a free pass. Representative Sal Esquivel (R) said “we are rewarding bad behavior” if we grant driver cards. The group Oregonians for Immigration Reform also says they plan to collect enough opposition signatures to overturn the law through a ballot measure.
But supporters of the law call it a public safety precaution. Thousands of drivers would be trained and insured under the law.
The driver card program is set to start January 1, 2014, and the Department of Transportation expects over 80,000 applications for cards within the first nine months.
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