State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10, Camano) had to adjourn a hearing Thursday on a controversial bill that would make people provide a social security number or proof that they are in the US legally to get a Washington State driver's license. Currently, applicants only have to show they are residents of Washington State, but there are no requirements to prove their legal presence in the U.S.

About 15 people who hadn't gotten a chance to testify—opponents of the bill—disrupted the hearing, challenging Haugen's repeated insistence that the bill wasn't actually about immigration. Exasperated, Sen. Haugen, banging her gavel, called for a recess and said: "Do you want to see my grandchildren? Half of them are brown." Watch here—and go to the 1:03 mark for the fireworks—if the link below isn't working.



Supporters of the bill say the fix will prevent our state from being a magnet for undocumented workers, which A) costs the state money and B) morphs into a national security issue.

Opponents of the bill counter that instituting the requirement will stop undocumented immigrants from getting a driver's license, pointing out that if undocumented immigrants can't get a license, how can they drive to jobs or run errands or take their kids to school?

Opponents also say the requirement is worse for national security because without driver's licenses (which include addresses and names), illegal immigrants will slip into the shadows.

Advocates for undocumented workers at OneAmerica also believe the bill will lead to racial profiling. Haugen disputed that claim—despite testimony at the hearing from people who said they'd been racially profiled (go to the 46 minute mark)—saying her sister-in-law, who is Hispanic, insists profiling only happens in places like Arizona, not Washington State.

Opponents also believe the requirement could destroy the agriculture industry, which relies on undocumented immigrants, and will also cause insurance rates to spike; if undocumented workers don't have driver's licenses the roadway will become increasingly dangerous, they say, pointing to a report done in New York.

When New York state allowed undocumented workers to have driver's licenses, the state predicted car insurance rates would decline statewide by 34 percent and save New Yorkers $120 million annually.

"These kinds of restrictions decrease safety for everyone on the road," Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director of OneAmerica, says, "creating a pool of unlicensed, uninsured drivers that will drive up premiums for everyone."

On a related note:  KUOW reporter Liz Jones recently fact-checked a Seattle Times story that incorrectly reported that a Pew Center study said Washington State's undocumented population had gone up 35 percent during the past three years. Jones interviews one of the authors of the study who disputes the Times' conclusion. The Times ran a correction today.
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