Stricter rules for obtaining driver's licenses an improvement

But Washington state needs to do better. It is one of just two states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain licenses.

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Washington remains one of just two states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain valid, unrestricted driver's licenses.

And, as a result, the number of immigrants seeking driver's license have surged in Washington and the other state, New Mexico, over the past three years.

Being a magnet for illegal immigrants is a problem. It raises national security concerns as people with terrorist aims would look to Washington as a place to get the documentation that makes it appear they are in the country legally.

Clearly some action needed to be taken.

Yet, despite a bipartisan effort to fix this clear problem, the Legislature failed to make proof of citizenship or legal residency a requirement to obtain a driver's license.

Still, the Department of Licensing has, to its credit, put stricter proof-of-residency rules in place late last year that have discouraged those trying to obtain driver's licenses without valid identification.

The Seattle Times reported last week that among out-of-state drivers seeking Washington licenses this year, 8 percent lacked a Social Security number, down from 16 percent last year.

"We believe that our process stopped a lot of people from trying to come here from another state where they weren't eligible," Brad Benfield, department spokesman, told The Times.

State law requires applicants for a driver's license to live in the state. It doesn't require them to be in the country legally but does ask them to provide a Social Security number if they have one.

"The law says you have to be a Washington resident," Benfield said. "We want to try to maintain the integrity of our services and enforce that."

Good for the DOL officials.

But reducing the problem isn't enough. It needs to be eliminated. The law needs to be fixed.

We don't see bringing Washington law in line with nearly every other state as being either anti-immigrant or an anti-Latino proposal. It's about being in step with the rest of the country.

The fact is undocumented immigrants are in this country illegally.

It's foolish and dangerous to be one of two states where they have an opportunity to get themselves documentation that will allow them to more easily dupe authorities here and across the country.

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