Legislature: Fromhold Defends Immigrant Card Bill
Don Jenkins, columbian.com (Clark County, WA), Feb. 6
OLYMPIA — Vancouver Rep. Bill Fromhold has been called some bad names since he suggested that local governments and banks accept photo IDs issued to Mexican nationals regardless of immigration status.
“Pimp” … “panderer” … “whore” … “stupid bozo.”
“Actually, the reaction I’ve gotten has been really pretty quiet,” said Fromhold, a Democrat. “What I’ve got that has been negative was about a dozen e-mails or voice mails that were, frankly, derogatory.”
Fromhold brushed off the acrimonious opposition as “limited and narrow” and asked the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to approve his House Bill 3029.
The measure would urge public agencies and financial institutions to take Mexican-government-issued cards as proof of identification.
The bill would only “encourage,” not mandate, acceptance. Fromhold calls it a “symbolic gesture” a statement of respect to the state’s growing Latino population.
Several banks and city governments already accept the cards. It’s questionable how much real-world effect the bill would have.
But the proposal has broached the delicate subject of helping Washington residents who are in the country illegally, but attend schools, churches and pay taxes.
“As long as the federal government fails to deal coherently with issues of immigration law and we have a lack of direction, I think we’re going to struggle, and it’s going to be an emotional issue,” said Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger.
An illegal immigrant does not risk deportation by showing up to get a Mexican ID card, called a matricular consular, at the Mexican consulate in Seattle.
Carrying a widely accepted photo ID helps illegal residents open bank accounts, cash checks, sign up for utilities and generally get along in the United States.
Latino advocacy groups testified in support of Fromhold’s bill, and no one spoke against it.
Questions from Republicans on the committee, however, suggested some disdain for the idea.
Wouldn’t someone in the country legally have a passport or other papers? asked Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy. “Why would we need to have this type of identification?”
Afterward, Fromhold complained that he hasn’t been able to attract the support of GOP legislators, especially from areas with a high number of migrant workers.
Fromhold singled out for criticism Chandler and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside. Both are Yakima Valley farmers who also represent southeast Clark County.
“They should have their names on the bill,” Fromhold said. “This is not an issue they should dance around.”
Chandler said he didn’t oppose the bill, though he hasn’t heard anyone in his district say he should get behind it, either.
“If I sponsor a bill, I feel an obligation to work the bill and do what I can to get it through,” he said. “I know it’s a big issue for Bill (Fromhold), and I respect him for that, but I wasn’t in position necessarily to spend time pushing the bill.”
Newhouse, who’s on the Judiciary Committee, said he probably can support the bill, though he said he’s still trying to figure out what it would do.
The card, he noted, doesn’t help farmers, like himself, determine whether a worker is in the country legally.
“It boils down to whether it’s necessary and whether it’s going to accomplish anything,” he said. “This whole immigration thing has to be sorted out and, unfortunately, it’s not on our plate to do.”
To stay alive, Fromhold’s bill probably needs approval by today from the Judiciary Committee.
The committee chairwoman, Pat Lantz of Gig Harbor, indicated support, and Democrats make up a majority of the committee.
But even if the full House adopts the bill, it would have to win approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“We’ll get real push back from the Republican side,” Fromhold said.
Don Jenkins reports on the Legislature and politics. He can be reached in The Columbian’s Olympia bureau at 360-586-2437 or email@example.com.