Crackdown on Illegal Immigrant Drivers Now Nationwide

By: - July 26, 2011 12:00 am

The two remaining states that let illegal immigrants get regular driver’s licenses –  New Mexico and Washington – are both taking a hard line on out-of-state license applicants.

Washington officials started requiring more proof from applicants that they lived in the state, after noticing an uptick in the number of applicants without Social Security numbers over the last three years, reports The Seattle Times . In the past year, the changes led to a drop in the share of out-of-state applicants who have no Social Security number from 16 percent to 8 percent.

Washington State officials also acted on one of the more notorious examples in the country of an out-of-stater illegally getting a license. The state rescinded the license of Jose Antonio Vargas, a reporter-turned-activist who wrote a first-person account in The New York Times detailing how he got a driver’s license in Washington without living there. The state sent Vargas a letter at the Washington address he supplied when applying for the license, but it was returned unopened, The Seattle Times wrote in a separate story . Washington state requires license holders to live in the state, so Vargas’ license was revoked.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez is also pushing to crack down on driver’s licenses issued to illegal immigrants. Last year, Martinez, a Republican, campaigned on the promise to eliminate driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants entirely, but she could not push the change through the legislature this spring. Now, she is using administrative tools to reduce their number. Her administration is sending out letters to 10,000 license holders who have no Social Security numbers, demanding proof of residency in New Mexico, reports The New Mexico Independent .

Earlier this month, Texas strengthened its laws requiring drivers to prove their citizenship before getting a license, writes the Houston Chronicle . The changes mean that drivers who have not recently visited a state licensing office may have to come in to show that they are citizens. They would also let the state tie the expiration date of a driver’s license to the expiration date of a visitor’s visa.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.