The state Department of Licensing announced Monday that it will now require federal immigration agents to provide a court order to access its records.
In addition, the agency said that its deputy director Jeff DeVere has resigned. Part of DeVere’s job was to oversee compliance with an executive order that Gov. Jay Inslee issued nearly a year ago that said state officials would do all they could to protect Washington’s immigrants and refugees from discriminatory and deportation efforts.
Last week, a report published by The Seattle Times stated that DOL was providing photos and driver’s license applications 20 to 30 times a month to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The information was used to arrest and deport residents, the newspaper reported.
“The recent revelations about our state Department of Licensing’s failure to safeguard certain information from federal immigration officials has shaken and angered many communities,” Inslee said in a statement released on Monday. “It has angered me.”
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Inslee said his office is working with DOL to create better policies on the matter.
“It is clear that under the Trump Administration, ICE and other federal immigration authorities are operating with very different — and destructive — intentions than in recent years,” Inslee said in a statement. “Our policies and practices must be adapted to reflect that terrible reality.”
In a separate statement, DOL director Pat Kohler said her agency supports the executive order but failed to meet the governor’s intent in protecting information.
“We are sorry that our work did not align with our state’s values,” Kohler said in the news release. “…Our agency did not clearly communicate the nature of all federal law enforcement requests to the Governor’s Office and the Legislature. Nor did we seek clarification about how to handle information requested by agencies seeking records related to United States Code (USCs) that contain both criminal and civil immigration violations”
DOL officials said the agency also plans to:
▪ Conduct a review of agency processes and computer systems.
▪ Using emergency rulemaking to end the collection of information that isn’t mandated and could be misused, such as place of birth information gathered during the driver license or ID card application process.
▪ Hire a community liaison officer to work with community groups on the issue. The new position will report to the agency director, and coordinate outreach and education with the community.
▪ Establish a new hotline to answer customer concerns and any questions they may have about this issue, and train DOL staff on all of the new changes.