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Oregon voters reject driver cards for immigrants

November 5, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon voters on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have allowed people who cannot prove their legal status in the United States to get four-year driver’s cards.

Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a state law last year granting the cards, but an interest group put the measure up for a vote.

Oregon became the first state to turn the issue of immigrant driver’s cards to voters.

Supporters said the bill would make streets safer by forcing people to learn the rules of the road and get insurance. They noted the cards can’t be used to vote or get benefits, like boarding a plane, getting government benefits or buying firearms.

Supporters said the bill would make streets safer by forcing people to learn the rules of the road and get insurance. They noted the cards can’t be used for privileges such as voting or getting government benefits. They also can’t be used to board a plane or buy firearms.

It would allow immigrants and others to apply for the driver’s cards if they have lived in Oregon for at least a year and meet other requirements. The measure was aimed mainly at Oregon’s tens of thousands of immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Opponents, including 28 of the state’s 36 sheriffs, argued granting the driver’s cards would reward illegal behavior and facilitate crime.

“People understand that putting a state-issued photo ID in the hands of people in our country illegally just doesn’t make sense,” said Cynthia Kendoll, spokeswoman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform. “It didn’t add up to a good plan for Oregon.”

The Pew Hispanic Center said about 160,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally live in Oregon.

“While we are disappointed tonight, we are far from discouraged,” said Andrea Miller, executive director of immigrant-rights group Causa. “While victory is out of reach for us at the moment, we also know that this is just the beginning. Nothing that happened tonight has eliminated the very real and very urgent need for driver cards in our state.”

Oregon opted against giving the licenses five years ago, but reversed course last year as it joined seven states in granting them. That lasted didn’t last long. A group opposed to rights for immigrants who entered the country illegally gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot and the law on hold.

Thousands of immigrants work in nurseries, orchards and farm fields, so the state agriculture industry has been especially supportive of driver’s cards.

Among the early supporters were unions, immigrant-rights groups and a hospitality-industry lobby group.

Midterm elections generally are smaller and more conservative, but this year’s ballot might have drawn younger and more liberal voters because of measures to legalize marijuana and label genetically modified foods.

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