Oregon driver card bill nullifies voters’ mandate

Article author: 
Richard F. LaMountain
Article publisher: 
Oregon Live
Article date: 
28 March 2019
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

LaMountain, a former vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, was a chief sponsor of 2014′s Ballot Measure 88. He lives in Cedar Mill.

The keenest observation in the history of politics is that of English historian Lord John Acton: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Nowhere is that truth on fuller display than in the effort by Oregon Democrats -- now possessing supermajorities in the Legislature -- to nullify state voters' recent, overwhelming mandate against driving privileges for immigrants who are here illegally.

In April 2013, two-thirds of Oregon legislators voted to grant four-year driver cards to people here illegally. But in November 2014, via the citizen-initiated Ballot Measure 88, two-thirds of Oregon voters -- more than 983,000 people -- rejected those driver cards. On any issue, rarely has our state's system of direct democracy manifested a clearer disconnect between Oregonians and those they elect to represent them.

But last year, via Ballot Measure 105, Oregon voters defeated an attempt to repeal the state's sanctuary law -- a result, unsurprisingly, that was construed broadly by apologists for illegal immigration. The outcome, indeed, proved Oregonians now understand "immigration and diversity in a much better way" than in 2014, according to Andrea Williams, executive director of CAUSA -- the self-described "immigrant-rights organization" whose agenda is gospel to legislative Democrats.

What's followed, predictably, is this: In the Legislature's 2019 session, almost every House Democrat has cosponsored Rep. Diego Hernandez's House Bill 2015, which would give Oregon's illegal immigrants the driving privileges Oregonians rejected decisively not a half-decade ago.


Question: If legislative Democrats claim to be able to divine Oregonians' will on "immigration and diversity" on the basis of one ballot measure, why didn't they do so four years ago, after voters' decisive repudiation of illegal-immigrant driver cards? Given its two-to-one drubbing, legislators could plausibly have regarded Ballot Measure 88 as a rejection not just of driver cards, but of all government-sanctioned benefits for illegal immigrants.

Did they? No. Over the next four years, instead, the Legislature's Democratic majority operated as though Ballot Measure 88's outcome had been the opposite. It plowed forward with laws that credentialed college students here illegally to compete with U.S. citizens for taxpayer-funded scholarships; extended Oregon Health Plan coverage to 14,000 additional illegal immigrants; broadened sanctuary protections; and granted illegal immigrants enrolled in Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program the right to renew Oregon driver licenses.

So: With laws they passed in regard to illegal immigrants, legislative Democrats paid no mind to the outcome of Ballot Measure 88. But when voters affirmed the sanctuary law via Ballot Measure 105? Why, that outcome was carte blanche for legislators to bring back the illegal-immigrant driving privileges those same voters had annihilated four years before! There's a word for this: hypocrisy.

Here's the truth: Ballot Measures 88 and 105 were apples and oranges. The first would have awarded illegal [alien] immigrants the driving privileges they did not, at the time, have; the second would have repealed a law that already had been on Oregon's books for a third of a century. Though both dealt with illegal immigration, each treated a significantly different aspect of the issue, and in a different way. Oregonians' support of the sanctuary law, then, cannot honestly be interpreted to repudiate their rejection of illegal-immigrant driving privileges.

Certainly, lawmakers should be able to revisit issues and, if they determine past approaches to some of them no longer work, enact new laws or repeal old ones -- even if, many years before, a majority of voters may have favored those past approaches. Four years and the outcome of a single ballot measure, however, do not suffice for lawmakers to make sweeping assumptions about voters' broad thinking on major issues -- and, on the basis of those assumptions, negate decisions those voters had made not a half-decade before.

Legislative Democrats’ attempt to overturn voters’ recent, overwhelming mandate against illegal-immigrant driving privileges is a striking abuse of the majority’s power and a betrayal of Oregon’s system of direct, citizen-initiated democracy. Oregonians should tell their legislators to reject House Bill 2015 and let the outcome of Ballot Measure 88 stand.