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Easy License and ID for Illegals in Washington State Means Residents, Other States, Pay the Price

“This has created unnecessary aggravation for the state’s residents because the federal government does not recognize Washington driver’s licenses and IDs as valid for certain activities, including flying on a commercial airplane.”

Last April, I attended a family wedding in a beautiful area of Georgia north of Atlanta. We had a great time, although initially, that outcome was not guaranteed. One family was from New England, and the other was from Atlanta. But never mind the dust-up between the Union and the Confederacy, think about that historic event that happened only a couple months earlier between the Patriots and the Falcons. The event might have turned into the last battle of the Civil War. But it didn’t—the rivalry remained friendly, and we sent my nephew and new niece off in fine style to begin their lives together.

What does this have to do with law enforcement? Good question, but I’m getting to that. I promise. One of my nephews, who’d moved to Atlanta from New England, worked as a supervisor for a large landscaping company. A few years back, he and I were chatting about landscaping, and since I was a cop in Washington state, he asked me about something he found odd.

He told me a bunch of Hispanic folks had applied to work for his company—in Atlanta—but many provided Washington driver’s licenses. He told me he couldn’t figure out why so many job applicants had licenses from that particular state.

Washington and New Mexico are the only states that do not require proof of legal presence in the US to get a state license or ID.

The reason for this didn’t immediately strike me, but when I thought about it, I remembered my state’s warped illegal immigrant policies. When I told him Washington’s policy allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and IDs, he told me it all made sense now. I told him that it makes sense but in an unsettling way—you know, the if you had a bunch of suspicious people hanging around your house but you intentionally left your doors and windows unlocked anyway kind of unsettling. He said many of them told him they’d specifically gone to Washington just to get a license.

He said his company (at the time) accepted state-issued licenses and IDs as proof of the job applicant’s legal status in the US. So, even though probably unintended by Washington state government, they increased the odds that my nephew’s Georgia company was likely hiring illegal immigrants.

Washington state has a dubious distinction regarding the driver’s licenses it issues to its residents—a distinction that affects my family and me personally. In fact, it negatively affects a majority of adult Washingtonians. All in deference to people here illegally.

According to the Seattle Times, as of 2015, “Washington and New Mexico are the only states that do not require proof of legal presence in the US to get a state license or ID.” This has created unnecessary aggravation for the state’s residents because the federal government does not recognize Washington driver’s licenses and IDs as valid for certain activities, including flying on a commercial airplane.

Due to the REAL ID Act of 2005, as of January 2018, Washington state residents will no longer be able to use their standard issued state driver’s license or ID to enter a federal building or fly on an airline, even domestically. Acceptable alternate ID includes military identification cards and passports.

So, as a cop working in a sanctuary city, city and department leaders expected me to accept Washington state licenses even though I (and they) knew people in this country illegally could easily get them in this state.

This has created unnecessary aggravation for the state’s residents because the federal government does not recognize Washington driver’s licenses and IDs as valid for certain activities, including flying on a commercial airplane.

But, living in such a leftist state and working for an even more leftist city, I was accustomed to being told to ignore certain illegalities that city leaders didn’t like. For example, Seattle actually passed a law making it more difficult for police officers to investigate crimes that may have involved illegal immigrants.

According to SMC 4.18.015, it was illegal for me to ask a suspect about his immigration status unless his status was related to the crime. This was not about compelling a person to declare his or her status; officers couldn’t even ask.

Yes, as a cop, I could get into more trouble for asking someone that question than someone could get into for being in the US illegally. You see, the city likes the law that works against cops doing their jobs but doesn’t like the one that works against illegal aliens. So, the city orders cops to follow one and ignore the other. Such is the state of leftist jurisprudence.

What do you expect? Seattle’s city attorney, soon after he entered office, de facto “legalized” recreational pot before the state did it officially several years later by notifying officers that marijuana cases would be the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority” and, further, by declining to prosecute existing cases officers had filed. Putting the illegal over the legal is nothing new in the Evergreen State.

That’s why, on January 22, 2018, if Washington state residents with only a traditional license or ID want to hop aboard an airplane and fly even to neighboring Idaho or Oregon, the TSA won’t allow it. Washingtonians (last I checked, who are also Americans) either have to take the time and fork out the extra bucks for an “enhanced” (TSA compliant) state license or ID or shell out even more money and time to get a passport (to travel within their own country!).

Why? So that people who aren’t allowed to be here legally can pretend they’re here, or there (Georgia), or anywhere in America, “legally.” For how long are we going to allow leftist leaders to disrespect Americans while continuing to help those who disrespect America?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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