Undocumented Immigrants in Oregon Walk For Driver's Licenses

PHOTO: Oregon immigrant rights activists in Portland, Ore. at the start of their 5 day trip to the Capitol in Salem to demand drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants be reinstated.Jaime Limon-Guzman/Oregon DreamActivist
Oregon immigrant rights activists in Portland, Ore. at the start of their 5 day trip to the Capitol in Salem to demand driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants be reinstated.

A five-day walk kicked off today in Oregon to demand that Gov. John Kitzhaber issue an executive order to return driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants in the state.

Members of Oregon DreamActivist will be walking to the Capitol in Salem from Portland to deliver petitions they've gathered and draw attention to their cause.

"I will walk for social equality and for the immediate demand to reinstate driver's licenses for undocumented people," said walker Sindy Avila, who recently came out publicly with her undocumented status.

The previous Democratic governor, Ted Kulongoski, took away licenses with an executive order in 2007. Until then, Oregon had been part of a handful of states to issue driver's licenses undocumented immigrants. Currently, only Washington state and New Mexico issue licenses to undocumented residents.

For many undocumented immigrants, including Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, an Oregon license has been a vital tool to make normal life possible.

"That license was my only piece of ID for 8 years—it was a lifeline for me and for countless others who went to Oregon to get a license," said Vargas in an email.

Kitzhaber had promised to take up the issue in the past, but activists said they are tired of waiting.

"For a lot of years there's only been lip service," said Jaime Limon-Guzman. "But now we're holding the governor accountable to the situation."

The walk is the first of its kind in urging for an executive order to reverse the older order.

Oregon has considered recognizing identification from the Mexican consulates as a form of identification. But immigrant rights advocates fear this would create a two-tier system – not to mention, assumes that all undocumented immigrants are Mexican.