Gov. Jay Inslee suffered a credibility blow last week that needs closer review. The Seattle Times revealed the state Department of Licensing was sending photos and driver-license applications information to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
This was wrong. The information was used to identify and target otherwise law-abiding residents for expulsion from this nation.
This happened 20 to 30 times a month, directly violating one of the governor’s executive orders, according to reporter Nina Shapiro’s story.
Especially embarrassing to Inslee is that he has stood up nationally in the last year to confront President Donald Trump while Trump and his cruel minions worked to demonize immigrants, close borders to refugees and even to round up and expel undocumented residents who did not pose any threat to U.S. security.
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As DOL violated that order Inslee didn’t know.
Since the story broke, DOL director Pat Kohler apologized, announced corrective actions and her deputy director Jeff DeVere resigned. DeVere was in charge of complying with Inslee’s order.
Putting things right and requiring ICE to get a court order before obtaining the licensing information are appropriate first steps. As Kohler plans, her must review its processes and computer systems with oversight by the governor’s and attorney general’s offices. Hiring a community liaison officer to make sure DOL practices meet state residents’ needs and opening a hotline to answer questions may also help. Inslee’s office is smart to check with other agencies to make sure they are not also violating state rules.
Legislators, who pledged to pass a state law this year to buttress state agency actions and require court orders, should exercise their oversight role. Especially if DOL, the attorney general, and Inslee are unable to show fully what happened, why and how they’ll prevent further lapses.
Meanwhile, there is no need to abandon our state’s two-tier driver licensing system. It includes an enhanced license requiring proof of legal residency such as a passport or other proof, and a separate class of license that does not.
The two-tier system exists because Washington remains one of the few states that lets individuals obtain driver licenses without a proof of legal residency. The state’s argument, which remains sound, is that it’s better to have motorists licensed, insured and with an address on record than not.
The enhanced licenses and ID cards allow meet federal REAL ID requirements for entry to federal courthouses and other federal facilities as well as to board domestic flights.
There is no doubt that federal immigration efforts are getting off track. They should focus first on individuals committing felonies that jeopardize public safety. Roundups of so-called Dreamers, the young Americans brought to the U.S. illegally as children, is the wrong approach.
Our GOP controlled Congress is showing callous disregard to these otherwise law-abiding residents by failing to pass a stand-alone Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals bill that allows temporary work permits for those brought here as kids. President Trump was wrong again Tuesday to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal court’s ruling that his administration cannot summarily dismantle the program set up by President Obama.
Until federal policy is put on a rational footing, our state should resist sweeping and unlawful demands for data. Releasing data as DOL did may result in dragnets and ICE sweeps that are more likely based on race, country of origin and religion than any real threats to our common security.