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News >  Washington

State agency gives drivers’ info to immigration authorities

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 11, 2018

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during his annual state of the state address before a joint legislative session Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Olympia. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during his annual state of the state address before a joint legislative session Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Olympia. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Associated Press

SEATTLE – The Washington state Department of Licensing has been regularly providing photos and driver’s license applications upon request to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, state officials said.

From 20 to 30 times a month, the department has been giving residents’ personal information to federal immigration-enforcement officers – information used to arrest and deport people in keeping with the president’s policies, the Seattle Times reported Thursday.

The department is among a minority of such agencies around the country to allow people living in the country without legal permission to get driver’s licenses.

When the licensing department gives information to ICE, it redacts a field on the driver’s license application showing whether someone has a Social Security number, but leaves visible fields showing where someone was born (possibly a foreign country) and the ID used (sometimes foreign passports or other documents).

ICE uses that information as evidence someone doesn’t belong in the U.S.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the practice halted immediately this week and his spokeswoman told the newspaper that Inslee hadn’t been aware of the extent of the information sharing.

The department’s practices seemingly contradict Inslee’s promise when he signed an executive order last year that Washington remains a state that “doesn’t utilize state employees as agents of the federal immigration services.”

Inslee spoke then about people who have been living here for decades “providing the food we eat,” building our homes and paying millions of dollars in taxes. He voiced distress about reports of immigrants “already not participating in some of our programs because people are concerned that somehow their personal information will be shared with the federal government.”

Public safety was given as the reason Washington continued giving driver’s licenses to immigrants after Congress passed the 2005 Real ID Act, which says licenses issued without proof of legal status cannot be used to board planes or enter federal buildings. At one point, Washington was one of only a few states to give licenses to such immigrants, and now is among 12, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Before Inslee put a stop to the department working with ICE, the licensing department’s Deputy Director Jeff Devere said the department treats ICE no differently from any other law enforcement agency.

Devere said the department’s practices are longstanding and stressed that they won’t provide “database dumps” that allow ICE to do a search, for example, on everyone born outside the U.S.

It will only respond to requests about specific individuals when given a name and a crime that officers are investigating, he said.

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