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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

A U.S District Court judge in Oregon has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to give illegal immigrants access to short-term driver’s licenses.

The suit, which named Democratic Governor Kate Brown and leaders of the state Department of Transportation as defendants, sought to restore a 2013 law passed by the Oregon Legislature which provided for access to short-term licenses for illegal immigrants. The law was overturned in November 2014 by Oregon voters under Measure 88.

The refusal to issue drivers licenses is considered unconstitutional by many, as immigration regulation is done at the federal level, and not a “legitimate state interest” according to the suit, which was filed on behalf of five illegal immigrants from Mexico. The lawsuit also claims that refusal to issue licenses is “arbitrary” and “capricious” and “motivated, at least in part, by animus towards Mexicans and Central Americans.”

Ann Aiken, The U.S District Judge presiding over the suit, wrote that she lacked the authority to compel the state to issue driver’s licenses, and also noted that the original 2013 law, SB 833, never actually went into effect as an Oregon Law, which means that even if she invalidated Measure 88, there would still be no law to officially grant these individuals driver’s licenses.

“As such, the state defendants are not refusing to issue driver cards because a referendum motivated by discriminatory animus prevents them from doing so; they cannot issue driver cards because no valid, existing Oregon law authorizes them to do so.” wrote Aiken.

Aiken’s decision was supported by the office of Oregon’s attorney general, who had previously submitted a motion to dismiss the suit, noting that the state “agrees that enacting a driver card program would have benefited (the plaintiffs) and would have been good policy for the state [but that] the relief the plaintiffs seek – the enactment and implementation of SB 833 – cannot be imposed on the state by the federal court in this action”

Oregon had previously allowed residents to get a driver’s license regardless of legal status, but the practice was discontinued in 2008 due to the federal REAL ID Act, which required residents to prove legal status to get one.

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