SALEM — A group of Mexican immigrants is suing to reverse a decision by Oregon voters on a 2014 ballot measure that prevents undocumented immigrants from getting Oregon driver cards.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, the
plaintiffs said the outcome of Measure 88 is unconstitutional because it
"arbitrarily" denies driving privileges "to Plaintiffs and others based
on their membership in a disfavored minority group."
The plaintiffs also say the referendum was "motivated in substantial
part by animus toward persons from Mexico and Central America," and that
it amounted to an attempt by the state to regulate federal immigration.
The lawsuit comes nearly a year after Oregon voters resoundingly defeated Measure 88,
which would have directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to
issue driver cards without asking for proof of U.S. citizenship. The
measure failed in the Nov. 4 election with a two-thirds no vote.
"It was an overwhelming rejection of giving drivers' licenses to
illegal aliens," said Jim Ludwick, communications director for
Oregonians for Immigration Reform. "but somehow that doesn't apply to
people who are here illegally and think the law doesn't apply to them."
The measure was a reaction to Senate Bill 833,
which passed in the 2013 legislative session with support from
Democrats and a few moderate and rural Republicans. Then-Gov. John
Kitzhaber signed the bill at a May Day rally on the Capitol steps before
a raucous crowd of 2,000 people.
But the law never took effect as opponents quickly organized a campaign to refer it to the ballot.
Since 2008, Oregon has required applicants for a driver's license or
permit to provide proof of citizenship. Now, most of those licenses
issued to undocumented immigrants have expired.
"It's reached a crisis point for families because they don't have a
solution," said Andrea Miller, executive director of Causa Oregon, an
immigrant rights group. "We are very excited by this legal strategy,
mostly because we continue to see and continue to hear that the driver
cards is a top priority and a top need."
The five Mexican immigrants, identified only by their initials in
court documents, are joined by two Latino nonprofits, Familias En Acción
and Los Niños Cuentan, as plaintiffs in the case. All of the immigrants
say they can't apply for or renew their driver cards, according to
court documents, hurting their work prospects and family life.