state legislation

Immigration activists seek the right to drive legally

Sindy Avila came to the United States from Mexico when she was 2.

Kassandra Marquez was born in the United States, but just a few months after her parents arrived from Mexico.

What drew them and about 100 others to a rally Tuesday at the Capitol was the issue of reinstating Oregon driver’s licenses for immigrants who lack proof of legal presence in the United States.

Oregon lawmakers are expected to consider legislation soon to change the 2008 law requiring such proof to receive licenses and identification cards.

“We stand together in solidarity with our parents and valued members of our community to let our politicians know that we need driver’s licenses,” Avila said at the rally. “They are a necessity for people to go to work, to provide food for their families and to contribute to our community.”

Marquez’s mother was five months pregnant with her when her parents crossed the border.

“My father goes to work daily, living in fear of getting detained by the police,” she said. “This affects me and my family, because he is our only provider for our household. It is my fear that one day, while he is driving to or from work, I will not be able to see him again.”

Several others told their stories, mostly in Spanish, but withheld their last names.

The rally was organized by Oregon Dream Activists, which sponsored a similar rally Oct. 30 after several students walked from Portland to Salem over four days to call attention to their cause.

At the Oct. 30 rally, Gov. John Kitzhaber was the target of advocates who thought he could reverse the 2008 law via an executive order. Kitzhaber has since announced his support of changing the law, and supporters at Tuesday’s rally hid his name from a banner proclaiming “Restore Our Licenses Now.”

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The same federal law also allows states to issue licenses that are “clearly marked” as invalid for federal purposes.

Washington and New Mexico are the only states with such licenses not requiring proof of legal presence, although Washington also issues an “enhanced” license that can be used for travel to and from Canada, as well as federal purposes. Residents of other states must obtain U.S. passports for Canadian travel.

Utah issues driving privilege cards that must be renewed annually.

Kitzhaber announced 11 months ago, in a message delivered at a May Day rally, that a task force would try to come up with solutions. He has not said what form the legislation may take.

“This bill is important for a significant segment of our economy,” he said at a news conference on Feb. 11.

“We want a driver’s license that is not discriminatory,” said Marco Mejia of Jobs with Justice, a group based in Portland, during the rally.

Immigrant-rights groups say that many drivers without immigration documents cannot obtain or renew their licenses, forcing them to use public transportation or forgo licensed driving.

But Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which has been critical of federal immigration policy, has defended the 2008 law as a safeguard against the abuse of licenses.

Mira Conklin, who spoke for the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, said national borders are drawn by humans, not God.

“It’s a line that tries to tell us that a person born on one side of that line has more value than a person born on the other side — and we know that’s not true,” she said. “We know we all have value. Let’s work together to change the law.”

Peter Parks, a retired longshoreman and a spokesman for Jobs with Justice, said state legislation for driver’s licenses is only a step toward federal legislation for comprehensive immigration-law changes. “We have to keep moving,” he said.

Marco Mejia addresses those attending the Oregon Dream Activists rally on the Capitol steps, on Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2013, in support of restoring driver's licenses without having to show proof of legal presence in the United States.

What’s next

A bill is expected to be introduced soon that would allow issuance of Oregon driver’s licenses and identification cards without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States. A Senate committee heard but did not advance similar legislation in 2011.

House Bill 3226, which would allow issuance of licenses and cards to those who have been granted deferred status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is pending in the House Rules Committee. Oregon officials already have determined that limited-term licenses can be issued to participants in the Deferred Action-Childhood Arrivals program authorized by President Barack Obama last year

One has to wonder...

One has to wonder why, why would our Governor want to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens?  Why are so many Legislators trying to hide the fact that there is a bill, HB 3226,  "hiding in the shadows" at the Oregon Legislature? Why?  I'll tell you why...

In a recent poll by the Statesman Journal, while not scientific, the views of the public were made very clear in this open poll. We must all keep our eyes wide open lest the Legislature tries to slip the bill through under the radar.

QUESTION:

Should the Oregon Legislature reinstate driver's licenses for those who cannot prove legal presence in the United States?

Yes 5%

No 91%

Not sure 1%

Don’t care 0%

Voting is now closed: 705 votes

This comment followed the poll results regarding HB 2787, the instate tuition benefits for illegal aliens bill:

I am so astounded by the number of representatives that are willing to ignore our returning veterans but reward the children of people who snuck into this country to steal jobs away from Americans.

The media continues to sell this position as supporting people who have entered this country only to take jobs Americans don't want. I am 66 years old, I have been in the construction industry for over 40 years, I have seen the transformation of the labor force in the skilled construction trades over the last 20 years. Having worked for the state I represented the state as a construction project manager. This means that the work that was being done under my management was work that was classified prevailing wage public works. I have watched the number of English-speaking tradesmen diminish in trades such as concrete, tile installation, framing, roofing, drywall, and painting. These trades, under the prevailing wage category, pay between $30 and $60 an hour. I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that there are no Americans who want to earn between $30 and $60 an hour.

What's worse, is that I know as sure as God made little green apples, that many of them, perhaps even the vast majority of them, are not being paid the lawful prevailing wage. However, because they are in this country illegally it is easy for unscrupulous contractors to exploit them. In the meantime, because these contractors can underbid legitimate contractors who pay the true prevailing wage, legitimate businesses are being driven into bankruptcy.

Over the last 40 years I have watched most of America's manufacturing jobs get sent overseas. Now that there are few manufacturing jobs left that can earn a decent wage, the only blue-collar work remaining is construction and service work. Service work traditionally does not pay a living wage. Construction used to, but because of the influx of illegal immigration into the trades the wages are being driven down. So, after shipping the high paying manufacturing jobs out of the country business interests are now choosing to import Third World labor to cover those jobs that can't be shipped out of the country.

In my opinion the elected representatives that voted in favor of HB 2787, and who vote for any other bill, now or in the future, that supports illegal immigration, are committing a treasonous act.

 

Call every Oregon Senator today!

Alert date: 
2013-03-20
Alert body: 

Citizens likely have only today to stop passage of HB 2787 which would give in-state tuition benefits to illegal alien students.  The bill has passed the House and was heard by the Senate Education Committee yesterday. Recent reports tell us us they will send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Thursday.

CALL, email or visit your Senator.  Tell them you are a constituent and you VOTE.  Tell them you do not support, nor appreciate, that they would put the demands of people illegally in our country, ahead of the rights of US citizens.  Even our veterans are getting shafted in their zeal to get this bill passed ASAP.

If you don't know who your Senator is, find out here:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/
 

In-state tuition for immigrants heads to Senate vote

The Oregon Senate might vote as early as Thursday on a bill allowing in-state tuition for immigrant students.

The Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday to advance House Bill 2787. The committee did not amend the bill, and a spokesman for Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said the bill could be up for a final vote Thursday.

Courtney will be the bill’s floor manager when it comes up for a vote. He also sponsored the original bill a decade ago.

He said students should not be held responsible for what their parents did entering the United States illegally.

The bill would allow in-state tuition for students without immigration documents, if they graduated from high school or its equivalent in Oregon, attended Oregon schools three years before graduation and U.S. schools for five years. Students also would have to show intent to seek legal status or citizenship in the United States.

Out-of-state tuition typically is three or four times the rate for in-state residents.

Committee members heard from 28 witnesses split equally for and against the bill.

One of those in favor was Ayrton Nicolas, 17, a senior at North Salem High School, who said his ambition is to be a neurosurgeon. Nicolas, a member of the Junior ROTC drill team, said he has been accepted by several colleges.

“Unfortunately, because of my legal status in America, my tuition costs are twice or sometimes three times more than that of my fellow classmates who I studied with, played sports with and volunteered with,” he said. “This cost is the only thing keeping me from chasing my dream.”

But Mark Callahan of Salem, who has twice run for the Oregon House from Eugene, was among those who opposed the bill.

Immigrant tuition equity bill is not an equitable solution

Passage of the so-called tuition equity bill was neither surprising nor equitable.

Tears flowed, children were paraded to the Oregon House floor and galleries to witness their “historic” moment and representatives employed hyperbole alleging that through no fault of their own, these students cannot afford college. Headlines the next day obliged this sensational spin on a complex issue.

I don’t feel sorry for these youngsters or guilty about their situation. I saw possibility in their faces and I feel pride for a country where the mistakes of parents cannot dim the hope of a child to follow the American dream.

The federal government has failed to protect our borders and enforce a sane immigration policy. Oregon hasn’t done much better. But can we ignore the sheer numbers of undocumented folks in our communities? The “round ’em up and send ’em back” mentality is not only ridiculous in the Willamette Valley, it smells of bigotry.

The reality is, despite shoddy immigration practices and the difficulty of raising a family under a dark cloud of illegal residency, we have an undeniable mass of undocumented citizens the majority of whom are hardworking, honest neighbors.

They’ve been here a long time and have provided much of the work force that sustains our region’s agricultural foundation. They’ve done back-breaking work and many now manage farms, nurseries or work in numerous vocations. Are we surprised that now their children and grandchildren want a higher education and to attend football games as bona fide Ducks or Beavers?

Republicans and Democrats are ready to offer in-state tuition to these children but the bill was rushed to the floor last week and is deeply flawed.

Addressing fairness for some while disallowing provisions for veterans currently ineligible for in-state tuition or ignoring American students now paying out-of-state tuition is not fair at all. The bill received one two-hour public hearing, thereby disallowing many to even testify. Some amendments were allowed but efforts for substantive improvement were largely ignored and I couldn’t support it as written.

The debate barely acknowledged impending federal immigration policy now boiling over in Washington, D.C. and the effect on Oregon. The fiscal analysis was pathetically vague and testimony about projected costs ranged from negligible to millions of dollars of lost revenue. Further, a prudent sunset clause to re-examine this noble experiment was rejected out of hand.

Perhaps the most troubling omission is the refusal to provide clarity for students to obtain citizenship and permission to work legally during their college studies and, most importantly, after graduation. This glaring error puts the graduates and Oregon businesses in an untenable lurch.

In the quest for “historic headlines,” I fear the House of Representatives has set up to fail the very children we want to assist. I’m not fond of the phrase: “Fix it on the Senate side,” but now that may be the only hope to find tuition equity for all Oregonians and students wishing to study here.


Vic Gilliam / Special to the Statesman Journal

Rep. Vic Gilliam, R-Silverton, is a member of the House Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development and the Committee on Human Services & Housing. He can be reached at (503) 986-1418 or Rep.VicGilliam@state.or.us.

 

OFIR member Cliff Girod explains the "inequity" of tuition equity

OFIR member Cliff Girod wrote and outstanding op ed which was recently published in the Statesman Journal.
 

Tuition equity bill goes to Senate

In-state tuition for immigrant students without documents, which made it through the Oregon House by a big vote Friday, drew differing reactions from participants in the long-running debate.

“I can finally go home, look my parents in the eye and say, ‘Mom and Dad, I can go to a four-year college,’” said Hugo Nicolas, a Chemeketa Community College student who was one of many students present in the House gallery for the vote.

“It means more freedom for me — and more responsibility,” said Nicolas, who testified last week for passage of House Bill 2787. “So I’m going to have to work harder to shoulder my investment.”

A 2011 graduate of McNary High School, Nicolas hopes to transfer to the University of Oregon, where he plans to study economics and Chinese.

Victor Mena was able to transfer from Portland Community College to Portland State University, where he is studying criminal justice and hopes to join the Navy.

“I grew up here ever since I was 3,” said Mena, whose change of visa allowed him to attend Portland State. “Maybe tuition equity does not affect me anymore, but it will definitely affect a lot of other potential students.”

The 38-18 vote moved the bill to the Senate, where Jim Ludwick of McMinnville, a spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said, “it’s likely to pass — they’ve got the numbers.”

The Senate passed similar bills in 2003 and 2011, but the House let them die without a vote. Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, is the chief Senate sponsor of the current bill.

They are cowards using children as their shields to get something like this through,” Ludwick said after the vote. “This is just a denigration of the value of citizenship.”

Ludwick said immigrant students without legal presence can attend state universities now at out-of-state rates, which are three or four times higher than in-state rates that are partly subsidized by the state.

Although the bill does not make them eligible for state grants, Ludwick said, “Does anyone doubt that is the next step?”

The bill would allow state universities to charge in-state tuition if students meet specified conditions, including five years in U.S. schools and three in Oregon, graduation from high school or its equivalent in Oregon, and proof of intent to seek citizenship or legal status in the United States.

“They did not choose to come here; they were brought here,” said Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, the bill’s floor manager. “They have no other country to go to, but they have plenty to offer this state. Unfortunately, they have become collateral damage of this country’s immigration debate.”

The bill was backed by the Oregon University System, student and immigrant-rights groups, and the state’s major business associations.

“It brings hope to current and former students in my hometown,” said Rep. Betty Komp,D-Woodburn, whose House district is the only one in the 2010 Census to have a majority of racial and ethnic minorities.

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, said critics’ arguments that the university system would lose income from out-of-state tuition rates are wrong: these immigrant students are not attending and paying now. “You can’t lose something you don’t already have,” he said.

The House, on a party-line vote, defeated a Republican-backed substitute that would have set an expiration date, limited in-state tuition to those already here on the date it takes effect, and required students to be enrolled in a federal program for delayed deportations.

“It holds the university system to the same standard that all of our employers must comply with,” said Rep. Gene Whisnant,R-Sunriver.

The state bill would not by itself confer the authority for students to seek work permits in the United States.

But under a program of delayed deportations approved by President Barack Obama last year for those who arrived illegally in the United States as children, known by its acronym DACA, some participants are eligible for work permits. The state bill would recognize participation in the federal program as their proof of intent to seek legal status.

Five Republicans, including Rep. Vicki Berger of Salem, joined 33 Democrats to pass the bill.

Among those voting for it were Democratic Reps. Joe Gallegos of Hillsboro and Jessica Vega Pederson of Portland. Republican Rep. Sal Esquivel of Medford voted no.

Twelve other states, including Washington and California, have similar laws. A federal Dream Act — which passed the U.S. House in 2010 but died after a filibuster threat in the Senate — could become part of federal immigration legislation in the works.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is en route to Washington, D.C., for a conference, said he looks forward to signing the bill.

“By removing roadblocks to their post-secondary education, we open new opportunities to them and the opportunity for our state to capitalize on the investment we've made in these students through the K-12 system,” he said in a statement.

Hugo Nicolas, of Salem, testifies before the Oregon House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development at a public hearing on House Bill 2787, which would allow some students without immigration documents to qualify for in-state tuition rates. / KOBBI R. BLAIR / Statesman Journal

How they voted

How Mid-Valley representatives voted on House Bill 2787, which allows in-state tuition rates for students without immigration documents. A proposed substitute failed on a party-line vote.

Vicki Berger, R-Salem Yes
Kevin Cameron, R-Salem No
Brian Clem, D-Salem Yes
Vic Gilliam. R-Silverton No
Betty Komp, D-Woodburn Yes
Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio No
Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer Excused
Jim Thompson, R-Dallas No
Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill No

What’s next:

House Bill 2787, which passed the Oregon House on a 38-18 vote Friday, goes to the Senate. The bill is likely to be assigned to the Senate Education Committee.

Just who is the Oregon Legislature working for?

The Oregon Legislature has failed to pass a bill giving instate tuition benefits to illegal alien students for the past 10 years. Now, with the Democrats running the show, and some very misguided Republicans in their pocket, they are once again attempting to ram this bill down our throats. While this poll is not scientific, it is certainly open to anyone to express their opinion. If it's such a great idea, why does it fare so poorly in the Statesman Journal poll? Ask your Representative if they voted in favor of the HB 2787, passing it out of the House and sending it over to the Senate.

The House passed a bill allowing in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrant students. If it becomes law, do you believe it will be beneficial for Oregon?

Yes 13%

No 84%

Don’t Know 1%

Total Votes: 349

Immigration issues back in spotlight at Oregon Legislature

Debates over in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for Oregon’s undocumented immigrants drew thousands to the Capitol two years ago.

The Senate passed the tuition bill, as it had in 2003, but it died in an evenly split House. A Senate committee heard but did not advance the other proposal for driver’s licenses.

Those issues are back on the agenda of the 2013 Legislature, and so are the main players.

Immigrant-rights groups say they will push for measures that are likely to resemble those from 2011. Immigration critics say they will continue to oppose them, although they plan to emphasize different arguments.

But there are differences this time — mostly in the political environment.

While Democrats maintain a 16-14 majority over Republicans in the Senate they gained four seats in the Nov. 6 election to secure a 34-26 majority in the House.

The other difference is Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who took no public stances on either bill two years ago.

But on Nov. 30, Kitzhaber said he will sign a bill granting in-state tuition rates to state university students regardless of immigration status. He even suggested they should have access to grants.

Seven months earlier, Kitzhaber also issued a message — read aloud at a rally in Salem — committing him to resolve the issue of driver’s licenses. It’s not yet clear what form that will take, although a handful of states offer a couple of ways to go.

Case for in-state tuition

While federal immigration legislation could resolve the issue nationally, advocates say they will press for action that would add Oregon to the states granting conditional approval of in-state tuition rates for college students, regardless of their immigration status.

A new bill is likely to be along the lines of 2011’s Senate Bill 742, said Erik Sorensen, a spokesman for CAUSA, Oregon’s immigrant-rights group that promoted the 2011 effort. That bill specified five conditions for eligibility, including residency in Oregon, graduation from high school and steps toward legal status.

Hundreds of students donned symbolic caps and gowns two years ago. One of them was Hugo Nicolas, then a senior at McNary High School who came to the Mid-Valley from Mexico at age 11. He was a senior class representative and a company leader for Junior ROTC at North Salem High School.

“I don’t feel right being here illegally, but Mexico is not my country, and it does not have the values I have come to know,” he told the House Rules Committee, which was hearing the Senate-passed bill.

Even at in-state tuition rates, which are roughly a third of out-of-state rates, Nicolas said his dream of attending the University of Oregon would be difficult because he still would not qualify for government financial aid. But he said the bill would have given him a chance.

The Senate bill failed to move from the House committee, and an effort to force a House vote on it came up short of the 31 signatures required. None of the 30 Republicans signed — not even its House sponsor.

The case against

Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which opposed the 2011 effort, acknowledged that the changed political balance in the House will make it tougher to prevail.

“They are pushing it again, and the makeup of the House and Senate is slanted toward those who want to pass it,” said Jim Ludwick of McMinnville, a spokesman for the group. “But we are going to fight it again.”

Ludwick said opponents will rely more on arguments that granting in-state status to such students will cost the state university system in terms of higher out-of-state rates they would pay otherwise.

“It means that at the University of Oregon, an illegal alien will get a $20,000-per-year benefit that would be denied to an American citizen who happened to graduate from high school in any other state,” he said.

State university officials, who supported the 2011 bill, said such students are unlikely to attend any state campus with the possible exception of Eastern Oregon University, which does not charge a differential for out-of-state students.

“Oregon cannot afford to miss the chance to provide as many students with an education that allows them to fully contribute to the future of our state,” John Minahan wrote in 2011, before he stepped down as president of Western Oregon University. Under his tenure, WOU recruited Hispanic and other students who were the first from the families to attend college.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states — including Washington and California — have laws allowing in-state tuition rates for undocumented students. Four others specifically ban them, and two others ban enrollment of any student who cannot prove legal presence in the United States.

Licenses: A sequel

Like most states, Oregon requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance of a state driver’s license or identification card. Lawmakers added the requirement in 2008 to comply with the federal Real ID Act, which sets standards for state licenses that double as identification for federal purposes such as boarding commercial aircraft or entering federal buildings.

The 2005 federal law allows states to issue licenses if they are clearly marked as invalid for federal purposes.

Washington and New Mexico still issue driver’s licenses without proof of legal presence, although Washington also has an “enhanced” license that serves as identification for federal purposes and travel to and from Canada.

Utah issues a driving privilege card that must be renewed annually.

Ludwick, speaking for the opposition, said relaxing the requirement for U.S. legal presence would make easier for drug traffickers.

“The most valuable document they can possess is a valid driver’s license,” he said. “It just emboldens criminal activity if you give driver’s licenses to people who should not have them.”

'Needs to get done'

Both sides on the issue say that use of Mexican consular cards is not a permanent solution.

CAUSA’s Sorensen acknowledged Kitzhaber’s efforts, and said Oregon’s recent decision to approve temporary licenses for young participants in a federal delayed-deportation program was a step forward.

Still, the number of Oregon participants potentially eligible for the federal program, known as DACA, is estimated to be far less than the total of undocumented immigrants. Sorensen said the larger question is how all of them prove they can get safely to and from work, school and family errands.

“It’s likely that we will stick with a similar bill” to what was proposed as a residency-only requirement two years ago, Sorensen said. “It’s one of those things that needs to get done.”

Health care

Whether health professionals should undergo training about differences in providing medical treatment to cultural minorities is a topic likely to be revived in the 2013Legislature.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
The Oregon Health Equity Alliance consists of six groups: Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, CAUSA Oregon immigrant-rights group, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Oregon Action, Oregon Latino Health Coalition and the Urban League of Portland.
They will promote a version of 2011’s Senate Bill 97, which as passed by the Senate would have required the Oregon Health Authority and 18 regulatory boards to develop standards and shape how health-care providers should be educated about cultural differences.
Although the 2011 bill passed the Senate on a 22-7 vote, it died in the House on a 30-30 split along party lines. Its floor manager then was Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, who this session is House speaker.

State gov race brings attention to immigrant driver's licenses

SEATTLE (AP) - The races for governor and attorney general have brought renewed attention to a proposal that would create a two-tiered driver's license system in Washington to address the issue of driving by immigrants who can't provide proof of legal U.S. residency.

Washington and New Mexico remain the only two states in the country not to require proof of legal U.S. residency when applying for a driver's license.

Under the proposal known as the Utah model, a person who can't prove U.S. residency can get a permit that allows them to drive, but that document is not a valid identification.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna backs the idea, and attorney general candidates Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson speak of it favorably.

"The idea that you should be able to obtain (a key identity document) without proving you're a legal resident of the country is seriously mistaken," McKenna said during a debate in Yakima earlier this month.

McKenna's opponent, Democrat Jay Inslee, has said he prefers keeping Washington's current system in place.

Over the years, this has been a contentious issue in Olympia that pits immigrant advocacy groups against conservatives.

Immigrant groups argue that when illegal immigrants have access to driver's licenses, it creates safer roads and allows them to purchase insurance. Opponents say that failing to ask for proof of U.S. residency invites identity fraud and could end up putting noncitizens in the state's voter rolls.

In Utah, one industry that relies heavily on immigrant labor hasn't seen much change since the law there was passed in 2005.

"Certainly there are labor shortages in our agricultural community, but we didn't feel (the driver's license law) had a significant impact," said Sterling Brown, vice president of public policy at the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. "It has not had an immediate or significant impact on the agriculture community."

According to Utah Driver License Division data, the number of people applying for the Driving Privilege Card has steadily climbed since 2005, from 21,600 to 38,997 in 2011. It peaked at 43,000 in 2008. That same year a state audit found that more than 75 percent of people who had the driving permit also had active car insurance, comparable to the 82 percent rate of drivers with a regular license.

But now immigrant rights groups in Utah are worried about information sharing between the state and the federal government.

In the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers changed the law to mandate the state to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if an applicant has a felony on this record. If the individual applying has a misdemeanor warrant outstanding, the state notifies the agency who sought the person's arrest.

Luis Garza, executive director of Comunidades Unidas, says he's concerned that people with minor offenses such as traffic infractions will be caught in the dragnet. He's also worried about the database of people applying for the driving permits being leaked.

Beyond that, the system creates a two-class society, he said.

"They have big red letters saying for 'driving privilege only'," Garza said. "Anyone who shows that card - who may or may not be undocumented in the country - is a second class citizen."

In 2010, the Utah Legislature created another driving permit for noncitizen legal residents, who initially could get the Driving Privilege Card. Still, nearly 160 legal immigrants have the permit.

It's not just immigrant rights groups who oppose the two-tier system. In 2011, a Republican state senator wanted to undue the law because he saw the driving permit as a magnet for illegal immigrants.

In Washington, numerous bills to require proof of U.S. residency have been filed but have never made it the floor of any legislative chamber in recent memory. A bill using the Utah model was introduced in 2011, but did not make it out of committee.

In 2010, the Department of Licensing answered some of the concerns about driver's licenses by narrowing the documents that it now requires to provide proof of Washington residency. It now requires proof of a valid Washington residence address if an applicant doesn't provide a verified Social Security number. The proof documents, such as rental agreements, will be copied and verified by the agency before a permanent license is issued.

"First and foremost, we believe the current system works and we want as much as possible that DOL doesn't become ICE," said Toby Guiven, public policy director at OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy group.

According to Department of Licensing data, fewer out-of-state people who didn't provide a Social Security number have sought to obtain a driver's license in Washington in the last two years, suggesting the department's new restrictions are deterring illegal immigrants from other state from getting a license here.

The department's data shows that in 2011, 9,237 people didn't provide a Social Security number when obtaining a license. In all of 2010, more than 23,000 did not. As of October of 2012, more than 5,000 have.

Guiven argued that creating a new system would add costs to the state budget, new bureaucracies and more wait time at the local DMV office.

In Utah, wait lines did increase shortly after the new law was passed, but subsequently decreased, according to an audit.

One unsolved issue around driver's licenses is the arrival of the federal REAL ID act. It was passed in 2005, but its implementation has been delayed since then. The latest deadline for states to come into compliance is January of next year. But officials expect that deadline to be extended.

Department of Licensing spokeswoman Chris Anthony said the Department of Homeland Security has asked for so far an update package for the state at the end of October, but that's it so far.

She added that state lawmakers passed a measure that prohibited the department from acting on REAL ID until the federal government provided money.

 

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