For the past several weeks, I’ve found myself carefully tracking House Bill 2015 [Equal Access to Road] as it winds its way through committee work and on toward the congressional floor for debate and vote.
Written by a bi-partisan group of state legislators, HB2015, if passed, will provide all Oregon drivers an opportunity to apply for Class C driver’s licenses, regardless of their ability to provide documentation proving lawful immigration status. Applicants would still be required to pass a driver’s test and prove Oregon residency.
I recently attended a Public Hearing on HB 2015 at the State Capitol in Salem, and was just one of several hundred to participate in democracy at work. Strong voices “for” and “against” the bill were given equal time and respect. The Attorney General, Representatives and Senators spoke, side by side with orchard workers and hotel maids. Several teenage girls and a ten-year old boy from Hood River spoke up on behalf of their families and communities. What follows, are the words I would have spoken myself had I been called upon.
My name is Kristina Burbank. I serve the people of St. James Santiago Episcopal Church in Lincoln City, Oregon. We are all immigrants from many times and places. And as citizens of a community built along Coastal Highway 101, we recognize that our driver’s licenses can literally be our lifelines: to employment, to education, to medical appointments, to relationships.
Some of us know first hand what it’s like to live without driver’s licenses. But imagine if each and every one of us lost our licenses for just one week. Park every car, every school bus, motorcycle, delivery truck and ambulance. Hitch up the horses and lace-up the hiking boots. Imagine the breakdown of our entire community. No workers. No restaurants. No hotels. No vacation industry. No Town Hall Meetings. And imagine the breakdown of families and friends—of all those who rely on one another.
One young family of immigrants would tell you that over the years they’ve been faithfully mentored and taught English by an older Anglo Woman. Now their family is stable, but the woman, living alone, is elderly and frail. Still, she is beloved and has been adopted by the Latino community. They shop for her and take her to medical appointments. They keep her company. Those who originally received help are now helping. Their driver’s licenses have truly become her lifeline.
As one Latina woman would tell you: “We all want to be responsible citizens. We want to be licensed drivers. We want to be insured drivers. We want to drive—to work, to school, to appointments, to use Oregon’s roads with freedom and fairness.” I think we can agree with her that all Oregonians would be well served knowing that all drivers on our roads had passed their driver’s tests and had insurance.
So let’s forget about “them” and “us”. Rather let us think of ourselves as one population. For we all rely on one another. That which weakens and harms one member of the community, weakens and harms the whole. Together we may fall. Together we can rise again.
For the sake of our entire community—for the sake of the entire state of Oregon—I urge you to support HB2015. If we are to grow into the hope of living together as one whole, healthy community—if we are to journey together toward a working unity—we all need Equal Access to Roads. Each and every one of us.