An effort to repeal a legislative bill that would have allowed driving privileges to those who can't prove U.S. citizenship qualified for the ballot today, and a coalition has already kicked up to defeat it.
Shortly after the Secretary of State verified the campaign's signatures to refer Senate Bill 833 to the 2014 ballot, opponents issued a statement, saying that forbidding immigrants a way to legally drive does more harm than good.
The Oregon Legislature approved SB 833 this year, allowing those who can't prove they're in the United States legally to obtain "driver's cards." Oregonians for Immigration Reform and Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses collected signatures to put the issue to a vote.
But a group of law enforcement, business and clergy have already say they'll run the counter campaign, Oregon Safer Roads Coalition.
“From the perspective of the Portland Police Bureau,” Chief Mike Reese says in a press release, “this law will enhance the safety and well-being of all Oregon drivers.”
Bill Perry, a lobbyist with the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, says that opponents are trying to paint the bill as an anti-illegal immigration issue. He says it really has to do with allowing migrant workers in restaurants, farms and other industries to get to work.
"There's been worker shortages for 10 to 15 years," Perry says. "Obviously not being able to drive has a lot to do with it, particularly for workers in rural areas."
He says the bill would also benefit other people without documents, such as homeless people or the elderly who have not a license before or no longer have their birth certificates.
Gov. John Kitzhaber also released a statement, asking Oregonians to approve drivers cards:
“Last spring, Democrats and Republicans in the Oregon Legislature came together to pass Senate Bill 833, and I was proud to sign it. This common sense measure is designed to improve traffic safety by reducing the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorists on Oregon roads. I am confident that Oregonians will join me in supporting safety for everyone on our highways and roads with a yes vote on this ballot initiative next year.”
The safer roads coalition also names retired Hillsboro Police Chief Ron Louie, Oregon Nursery Association of Oregon Director Jeff Stone and David Leslie of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon are also part of the opposition.