Department of Licensing has shake-up after immigration controversy
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The deputy director of the Department of Licensing is out, and the department announced immediate steps Monday to stop disclosure of information to immigration authorities.
This comes just days after it was disclosed that the DOL was sharing certain licensing records with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
"We are deeply sorry about what has transpired," said Krista Carlson, Department of Licensing's communication and education director.
An apology and a voluntary resignation from the DOL Deputy Director Jeff DeVere came after The Seattle Times revealed that the DOL was providing records to immigration authorities.
The records release outraged Gov. Jay Inslee, who said the state fell short in meeting the expectation of an executive order that is meant to keep state workers and state agencies from helping to enforcement immigration laws.
"We have to do a better job tightening the release of this info to protect people in our state," said Inslee.
"We thought we were in alignment, we now know we were not, and we want to right that wrong," said Carlson.
The DOL said DeVere was responsible for overseeing compliance of the governor's executive order that nearly a year ago committed the state to do all it could to protect Washington's immigrants and refugees from "discriminatory enforcement and deportation efforts."
The Times reported the DOL was issuing photos and driver's license applications 20 to 30 times a month to immigration agents.
"It turns out what they're doing is going after many people who do not have criminal histories," said the governor.
The DOL insists it was the result of complex coding.
"What we are finding there are certain nuisances in some of the codes that we could see them as either civil or criminal infractions potentially," explained Carlson.
Now comes a stronger and clearer policy -- the result of consultation with the Governor's Office and the Office of Attorney General.
The new immediate steps to stop disclosure of information to federal immigration authorities’ starts with stopping the release of all records to federal immigration authorities. Any information released would require a court order or be required by state or federal law.
The agency has also launched a review its systems and processes, plans to hire a community liaison, set up a hotline for Washingtonians with questions and educate its staff about the executive order and the new steps..
Just how many people were affected by the records release is not clear. The DOL said it's still investigating.
"To have harmed one person is one too many," said Carlson.
You can learn more by going to this DOL site to learn about the new steps it is taking.
In that post, the DOL says:
“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."