If you’ve been paying attention at all this legislative session, you may have noticed that both the Oregon House and Senate passed a bill allowing Oregonians to obtain a driver’s license without showing proof of immigration status. The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Kate Brown, a long-time supporter of the bill.
What you probably don’t know is that Causa, an advocacy organization that calls itself Oregon’s Immigrant Rights Organization, is largely behind the bill’s victory, according to Iván Hernández, Communications Manager for the group.
The bill, named HB2015, and called the Equal Access to Roads Act, will make a huge difference in many immigrants’ lives, according to Hernandez.
“It’s difficult for a lot of people to get around,” Hernandez said. Even with access to public transit downtown, many people work two jobs, and need a reliable way to get from Point A to Point B. Additionally, many families simply cannot rely on public transit to move everyone from one place to another.
The law that forbade people from driving without being able to prove their citizenship was relatively new. People who could not prove their citizenship were allowed to obtain a driver’s license before 2008. Hernandez pointed out that that means Causa has been fighting for the law for the past 11 years.
Oregon is the 14th state to pass a law like this, according to Hernandez. In all states that have this law, there has been a decrease in hit-and-run accidents and traffic accidents in general.
“This really makes our roads and our communities safer for everyone,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said the victory was made possible through a broad coalition of people the group works with, from immigration advocates to social justice advocates.
The group also played a large role in passing the Student Success Act, a bill for paid medical and family leave, and a rent control bill, Hernandez said. Causa also played a large part in making sure that Measure 105, a measure created by an anti-immigrant group that would have allowed racial profiling, never made it to the ballot.
While Causa is an advocacy organization, and does not provide direct services, they work with partners that do. One of those partners is One Oregon, which defends immigrant rights.
Hernandez said that one of the goals of Causa is to encourage the community to be more civically minded, meaning encouraging them to vote. While Hernandez is glad that President Trump’s citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 census was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the next battle is to make sure that residents participate in the census.
“The census only works if people participate,” Hernandez said. And the census will help bring more resources to schools, roads, and other public agencies.
If anyone wants to reach out to Causa, they can do so by going on the groups website: https://causaoregon.org, as well as their social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. They can also call the business itself at (503) 409-2473.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Hernandez said. “In order for us to keep doing this work, and to have these victories, we need this support.”