Haugen headshot.jpg
Mary Margaret Haugen via senatedemocrats.wa.gov
Yesterday afternoon, Washington senators shot down a proposal to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants with a 25-23 vote. The

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With the Driver's License Bill Dead, Washington Immigrants Get to Keep Their IDs

Haugen headshot.jpg
Mary Margaret Haugen via senatedemocrats.wa.gov
Yesterday afternoon, Washington senators shot down a proposal to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants with a 25-23 vote. The decision came down to the wire, as the Senate voted on the legislation just five minutes before the deadline to pass bills out of their house of origin. The bill is effectively dead, and--at least for now--the state's undocumented immigrants will be able to keep their driver's licenses and ID cards.

SB 5047 was the favorite of the six licensing bills proposed by state lawmakers, mostly because it had bipartisan support. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, a Democrat from Camano Island and the chair of the Senate's transportation committee, was the sponsor of the recently deceased bill.

Haugen is the senator who famously (or rather infamously) insisted that her proposed law had nothing to do with immigration, then remarked to opponents who had gathered to testify against the bill in a hearing, "Do you want to see my grandchildren? Half of them are brown."

According to the AP, Haugen vowed to take the issue to Governor Christine Gregoire, who has stated publicly that she would sign licensing restrictions into law:

"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."

If approved, the bill would have required applicants to show proof of legal residency in Washington in order to obtain a driver's license. If applicants couldn't produce the paperwork, they would've received a license stamped "Not valid for identification purposes." In other words, their ID would have said "Please deport me, I'm in this country illegally"--not something that most immigrants would want to carry in their wallet.

The measure would have also cost taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million to implement. And even without the passage of the bill, the state Department of Licensing has enacted new measures that require potential licensees to prove they reside in Washington. None of the other licensing bills received votes, as the deadline to advance legislation came and went.

OneAmerica, an immigrant rights advocacy group that lobbied hard against the legislation, celebrated the news of the bill's defeat yesterday.

"This bill was a threat to road safety, would have driven up insurance premiums for everyone, and costs money that we can ill afford as a state," OneAmerica director Pramila Jayapal said in an official statement. "Communities and individuals across the state spoke out strongly against the bill, testifying, signing petitions, and calling their legislators to let them know how harmful this bill would be. OneAmerica applauds the Senators who rejected playing politics and chose instead to preserve justice and ensure safety for all of our state's residents."

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