Washington is one of three states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses because the law does not require proof of citizenship or legal residency.
Washington needs to change its law.
In the wake of 9/11, and at the urging of the Department of Homeland Security, nearly every state that issued driver's licenses to non-legal residents stopped the practice. By 2009, all but Washington, New Mexico, Utah and Hawaii had changed their laws. Hawaii took action soon after.
A year ago, we used this space to urge Washington lawmakers to take action on this matter. We concluded the editorial saying, "Washington state needs to change its policy sooner rather than later. The Evergreen State doesn't need to be -- or want to be -- the place illegal immigrants turn to for ID."
Sadly, we were correct. Washington's driver's license is becoming a magnet for illegal immigrants.
An Associated Press analysis found that the three states have seen a surge in immigrants seeking IDs in recent months. This has been attributed to crackdowns on illegal immigration in Arizona and elsewhere.
Washington and New Mexico have seen a bigger surge of non-legal resident licenses than Utah because that state has a two-tiered system that allows illegal immigrants to have driver cards that can't be used as ID.
Republican lawmakers in New Mexico and Washington state have pushed to tighten the laws in recent years. They've been stopped by Democrats who control their legislatures. The usual argument in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses is that since they are going to be on the road anyway it increases the chances they are qualified to drive and have insurance.
But that does not change the fact an undocumented immigrant is in this country illegally. Pretending the law isn't being broken is foolish.
The AP analysis of data in the three states revealed some striking numbers: The rate of licenses issued to immigrants during the 10 weeks that followed approval of the Arizona law reflected a 60 percent increase over the annual average for last year. By comparison, the rate of licenses issued to non-immigrants during the same period increased only modestly.
Washington state granted 3,200 licenses to people from outside the U.S. through June, exceeding the pace of 5,992 for all of 2009, The AP reported.
When it comes to acceptable forms of ID, the driver's license is generally viewed as gold. There's an assumption that folks who have a state-issued driver's license are who they say they are. It is also assumed they are living in the country legally. That assumption creates legitimate national security concerns.
Washington state lawmakers are doing their constituents -- and the nation -- a disservice. Illegal immigrants should not be able to obtain a driver's license in Washington state.