Immigration check for driver’s licenses appears unlikely

Mar 8, 2011

Washington could soon be the last state in the nation to issue driver’s licenses without an immigration check. A controversial proposal in Olympia to create a two-tier license system appears to have died. Senate Republicans failed to force a vote just before a key legislative cut-off.

Currently, only Washington and New Mexico don’t require proof of citizenship or lawful presence in the country to get a driver’s license.

Legislation to require a Social Security check has passed the New Mexico House. In Washington, Senate Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen wanted to create a two-tier license system:

  • People who couldn’t prove they are in this country legally would still get a license to drive.
  • It would be stamped “not valid for identification.”

Opponents call it a 'Scarlet Letter.' Haugen says she’s not giving up:

“Nothing is ever dead in the legislature. New Mexico is passing their bill. That’ll mean we’re the only state in the union. I think a lot of us have concerns that there will be an initiative that will be far worse – devastating to our agriculture community. ”

A more far-reaching initiative to the people has already been filed that would prohibit illegal immigrants from getting a driver’s license. Haugen says she plans to ask Governor Chris Gregoire to take a lead on this issue.