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Immigration check for driver’s licenses appears unlikely

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. ”

Amore 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.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.