A group of undocumented Mexican immigrants is filing a lawsuit against Oregon, requesting the state repeal a 2014 ballot measure that prevents them from applying for driver’s licenses. The lawsuit, filed by five foreign nationals, comes in the heels of Oregon voters defeating Measure 88 in 2014. Two-thirds of voters voted to deny the initiative. Out of thirty-six counties in Oregon, thirty-five were in favor of denying licenses to undocumented immigrants. All congressional districts, represented mostly by Democrats, also voted to withhold licenses to undocumented immigrants, suggesting a strong bipartisan backing of the issue.
Measure 88 Unconstitutional
The only problem is that the rejection of Measure 88 can be deemed as unconstitutional, as it arbitrarily denies driving privileges “to Plaintiffs and others based on their membership in a disfavored minority group.”
The plaintiffs also pointed out that the referendum was a result of Oregon voters being motivated “in substantial part by animus toward persons from Mexico and Central America,” and that in effect, it was an attempt by the State of Oregon to twist federal immigration laws.
Was Race an Issue in the Vote?
According to Gustavo Recarde, an undocumented immigrant working in construction and several other odd jobs in Portland and other states since 1988, a driver’s license would lead to more opportunities. To him, if an undocumented migrant can get a driver’s card, it can open up more doors to finding potential work as a driver. Recarde also believes race was a key motivator in the referendum.
For Cynthia Kendoll, president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Oregonians don’t bear the responsibility of giving undocumented workers jobs they don’t legally have. She points out that these migrant workers came here on their own accord, and as such should expect the hardships of entering the country through undocumented channels.
Measure 88 was a public referendum many saw as a reaction to Oregon legislation passed in 2013 that would have provided driver’s licenses to individuals who were unable to prove they entered the U.S legally. The campaign to reject the provision of these licenses had a resounding victory.
According to Norman Williams, associate dean for academic affairs at the Willamette University College of Law in Salem, the immigrants suing the state can refer to the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution as their defense. They can also claim that the state has no rational basis to prevent undocumented immigrants from being able to drive in Oregon.
He notes that the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that no one can target a minority group’s rights based on their ethnicity or race.
If you, your family, or anyone you know is facing a similar issue and want to know how to protect their rights, please contact the immigration lawyers of Lyttle Law Firm by visiting their website or by calling their offices at 512-215-5225.