Immigration, license bill voted down on WA Senate
By MANUEL VALDES
(this is an excerpt, for the full article please go to http://www.seattlepi.com/local/6420ap_wa_xgr_illegal_immigrants_licenses.html)
OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Republican-led motion to bring a vote on a bill that would have restricted access to driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and attempted to stop identification fraud was defeated Monday in the state Senate, dealing a major defeat to proponents of the measure.
In a procedural motion, Republicans asked the Senate to consider the bill, which had not been brought to the floor by Democrats, who hold the majority and control over which bills get a vote.
The motion failed 23-25 in the waning minutes of a deadline to vote on bills in their chambers of origin.
Among the “no” votes was chief sponsor Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, but she said that she will take the issue to the governor.
“Nothing is ever dead in the Legislature. I’m going to go talk to the governor,” Haugen said. “I’d ask the governor that she needs to stand and take leadership in this role. She needs to recognize what’s happening in this nation.”
Washington state is one of two in the country that let illegal immigrants obtain driver’s licenses. New Mexico is the other state that still allows such practice, but lawmakers there are also considering bills to close the access.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has said that if the Legislature passed a bill dealing with driver’s licenses, she would sign it.
The bill would have required applicants for driver’s license to provide proof of residency and a Social Security number. Supporters had said the bill aimed to stop identification fraud.
Haugen said that there are 300,000 more driver’s licenses in this state than there are drivers.
Opponents, though, had said that it would have led the illegal immigrant community to drive without licenses and car insurance. They also said that the estimated cost of the bill – about $1.5 million in the next two-year budget – is too expensive in a year that the state faces a deficit.
After the defeat, the bill appeared dead. No other licenses bill received a vote on the House.
The vote was the furthest a bill dealing with the driver’s license issue has ever gotten in the Legislature.
Haugen, who is the chairwoman of the Senate transportation committee, said that for years she had stopped similar bills because she was worried about the impact on the farm industry, which employs a significant number of illegal immigrants using fake identification.
The senator argued that her bill would put restrictions on identification fraud by imposing stricter rules on state residency, adding that illegal immigrants in the state would have not been affected by the proposed law.
She said that she’s concerned that if lawmakers don’t act, an initiative will be approved in this state with stricter rules affecting farm workers. But attempts at such initiatives have failed in the last half a decade in the state, with organizers failing to get the signatures needed.