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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Drivers' License Debate Crosses the Border

Drivers' License Debate Crosses the Border
Oregon News Service
Chris Thomas


SALEM, Ore. - Four Oregon lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow people to drive motor vehicles, no matter what their immigration status. Across the border in Washington, however, the State Legislature is discussing doing exactly the opposite, restricting drivers' licenses only to people who can prove they are U.S. citizens or in this country legally.

That's the way it has been in Oregon for two years. But state Representative Bob Jenson, a Republican from Pendleton, doesn't think the restriction has been very practical, so he has joined forces with three Democrats to try to change it.

"If you've ever been involved in having an accident with somebody that's uninsured, that's kind of a messy situation. I know that won't completely solve that problem, but it will solve some of it. And that would be a significant benefit, to individuals and to the state."

Opponents of the idea see allowing undocumented immigrants to drive as a form of amnesty. They point north to Washington, where some people from Oregon go to get licenses because they haven't had to prove their citizenship status.

But Jenson sees the matter as a public safety issue, in that it's better to have people behind the wheel who have been tested and licensed. He also says the legislation creates a sub-category of license only for driving; it cannot be used as identification for other purposes. Jenson says he's talking up the bill in Salem and it has some support.

"Whether that support will be adequate or not, I don't know. It draws a little opposition, but that's okay. I mean, it'll start some conversation, anyway."

Today Jenson and other backers of Senate Bill 845, the Driver's License Restoration Act, make their case in a news conference at 10:00 a.m. in the Press Room of the State Capitol, 900 Court St. N.E., Salem.


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