SALEM, Ore. - The Washington State Legislature is considering restricting drivers' licenses only to people who can prove they are U.S. citizens or in this country legally. That's the way Oregon has done it for the past two years, but four Oregon lawmakers have introduced a bill there that would allow people to drive no matter what their immigration status.
Oregon State Representative Bob Jenson, a Republican from Pendleton, doesn't think the restriction has been very practical, so he has joined forces with three Democrats to try to change it.
"If you've ever been involved in having an accident with somebody that's uninsured, that's kind of a messy situation. I know that won't completely solve that problem, but it will solve some of it. And that would be a significant benefit to individuals and to the state."
Jenson explains the Oregon legislation creates a sub-category of license only for driving, that cannot be used as identification for other purposes. He sees it as a public safety issue, in that it's better to have people on the roads who are tested and licensed. And he has this advice for Washington lawmakers before they clamp down on who can drive legally.
"Well, I'd say think about it a little bit before you do. I mean, it doesn't do you any good and it doesn't do those people any good if they don't have any legal right to drive."
Opponents of the idea see allowing immigrants to drive as a form of amnesty, and say too many people come to Washington to get licenses because they haven't had to prove their citizenship status. In Oregon, Rep. Jenson says allowing a limited form of driver's license has some support. In his words, "at least it will get people talking" about the issue.