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Journalist Reveals Gap In Wash. Driver License Resident Screening

Austin Jenkins


OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Pulitzer prize winning journalist who is in this country illegally managed to obtain a Washington driver license – even though he doesn't live in Washington. How did he do it?

This week in the New York Times Magazine, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas revealed himself as an illegal immigrant from the Philippines. Part of his story involves obtaining a Washington driver license earlier this year – even though he doesn't reside in the state.

Washington is one of two states that doesn't require proof of lawful presence in the country to get a driver license. But Washington does have a residency requirement.

So how did Vargas make it past that screening? Because, says Christine Anthony with Washington's Department of Licensing, he provided a valid Social Security number – one he admits he obtained fraudulently years ago.

"If someone already has a valid driver license from another state and a valid Social Security number and they come in and say that they're moving to this state and provide us an address that checks out," Anthony said, "then we assume that they're living here."

Licensing says because of staff limitations it focuses on the highest risk group for residency fraud – applicants without a Social Security number.

The agency has opened an investigation into Vargas' case.

On the Web:

Vargas' article "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant":

Wash. State licensing - proof of identity:

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network