By KELSEY SUTTON Sep. 13, 2013 For the News-Register A McMinnville man is helping lead a drive to force referral to voters of Senate Bill 833, which gives driving privileges to people who are here illegally. The bill is slated to go into effect Jan. 1, unless referendum backers can head it off. The campaign is being directed by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, based in Salem. Co-founded by McMinnville resident Jim Ludwick, it needs to gather at least 58,000 valid signatures by Oct. 4 to force an election. “We think it’s wrong, and we believe Oregonians should have a chance to vote on it,” Ludwick said. He said he's confident the campaign, which is using paid petitiongatherers, will get the signatures it needs. The bill requires the Oregon Department of Transportation to issue driver’s cards to applicants lacking proof of legal presence in the United States, as long as they comply with other driving requirements and demonstrate at least one year's residency in Oregon. For Ludwick and his colleagues, the debate over according driving privileges to undocumented immigrants got its start on Sept. 11, 2001. “Mohamed Atta came here on a tourist visa," he said. "One of the first things he did was go to Florida and get a driver’s license. He used the ID to open bank accounts, take flying lessons and board a plane on 9/11.” Atta became infamous, of course, for leading a group of 19 Islamic terrorists in hijacking airliners and crashing them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. And Ludwick said they had amassed 26 driver’s licenses from different states as they went about preparing for their suicide mission. Ludwick said Mexican drug cartels are exploiting Oregon’s permissive standards the same way today. He said they begin by obtaining Oregon driver's licenses and use those to establish bank accounts, obtain credit cards and lay their hands other other useful documents. He said Oregon ranks fourth in the nation in drug use per capita. He said the number of meth labs has been declining, but crystal meth is still widely available, as Mexican cartels are importing large quantities of it into the state. “The most important document a member of the Mexican drug cartel can have is a valid state driver’s license,” Ludwick said. “If they are pulled over in a traffic stop and have a valid license, the state trooper doesn’t have probable cause to search the vehicle.”
In 2007, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski issued an executive order ending the practice of providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. But when Gov. John Kitzhaber moved back into the governor's office in 2010, he soon set about undoing that. He created a special task force to develop the bill eventually enacted by the Legislature. Oregonians for Immigration Reform sought a seat on the committee, arguing it could provide the group with a different perspective, Ludwick said. But he said it never got any response and the committee's deliberations were shrouded in secrecy. “At the very least, whether you agree with me or not about the issue, we should at least have a public hearing so citizens can debate the issue,” he argued. And he said the referendum would do that. He carries a petition with him everywhere he goes, in case he runs into someone willing to sign it. Supporters of the law believe granted driver's card to undocumented immigrants would make Oregon roads safer. They argue licensing would cut down on the number of untrained and uninsured drivers. Supporters say employment is essential to their survival and transportation is essential to their employment. So they will drive anyway, only without passing driver tests or taking out insurance. Ludwick countered, “If someone is here illegally, they’re basically breaking every law already. Why would someone expect that they would follow traffic laws to make the roads safer?” Ludwick also took a shot at the bi-partisan immigration reform effort now underway in Congress. He said the claim is that every immigrant seeking to legalize his status will have to pass a background check, start at the back of the legal immigration cue, pay taxes, learn English and begin working toward citizenship. But he isn't buying it. “Why would someone want to become a citizen?" he asked. "All the benefits a citizen gets, they’re going to get without having to go through the process. “If we break the law, we expect to be held accountable. But if you’re here illegally, you’re constantly told the laws don’t apply to you.” Ludwick went on to say, “At Oregonians for Immigration Reform, we believe immigration is the most important issue facing the U.S. today. It affects everything from energy usage to criminal justice, health care, rule of law and our sovereignty as a nation.”
The group demands the U.S. seal its border to illegal immigration and limit legal immigration to its historic level of about 260,000 a year. At present, legal immigration tops 1 million a year and illegal immigration swells the influx substantially, it argues. “The U.S. census shows that our population grew by about 20 percent in the last decade," Ludwick said. "Factoring in children, about 70-80 percent of the population growth is because of immigration. We believe this is unsustainable environmentally, politically and socially.” It’s the number, not the people themselves, that Oregonians for Immigration Reform opposes, said Ludwick, whose ancestors immigrated from Wales themselves. “They’re just trying to better their lives and themselves, too,” he said. “It’s just the sense that our laws no longer matter.”
Published on Mar 3, 2014
A McMinnville man led an effort to allow voters to decide on a bill allowing driving privileges to people who are here illegally. (Originall...