Although state officials and the Legislature have been dithering over whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to obtain a Washington state driver's license, no action has been taken to fix this clear problem. Washington is one of just two states -- the other being New Mexico -- that does not ban illegal immigrants from obtaining valid state driver's licenses.
The only requirement is to live in the state.
Unfortunately, the lax law has made Washington a magnet for illegal immigrants.
This -- as it should be -- is an issue in the race for governor between Republican Rob McKenna (the current state attorney general) and Democrat Jay Inslee (a former member of Congress). McKenna wants the state to mandate applicants show Social Security documentation in order to be licensed to drive. Inslee, however, isn't willing to crack down -- at least not yet.
We've been urging lawmakers to take action for years but, to this point, the only progress has come from the Department of Licensing.
Two years ago the DOL put in place rules calling for stricter proof-of-residency to discouraged those trying to obtain driver's licenses without any valid identification. It was reported by The Seattle Times last summer that among out-of-state drivers seeking Washington licenses, just 8 percent lacked a Social Security number, which was down from 16 percent the previous year.
Still, that's too much.
If 48 of 50 states have a reasonable standard to obtain a driver's license, Washington is being irresponsible.
This is not an attack on immigrants, it's a matter of security.
It was at the urging of the Department of Homeland Security that nearly every state that issued driver's licenses to non-legal residents stop the practice. By 2009, all but Washington, New Mexico, Utah and Hawaii had changed their laws.
And now there are just two.
The fact is undocumented immigrants are in this country illegally. Pretending the law isn't being broken -- looking the other way when issuing state driver's licenses, as Washington now does -- is downright foolish.
Lawmakers need to take action to bring its driver's license requirements in line with the rest of the nation.