OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington state Department of Licensing says it will no longer release personal information to federal immigration authorities without a court order unless required by law.
The agency announced the change Monday following a report in the Seattle Times last week that showed the department was handing over personal information to federal authorities 20 to 30 times a month.
Washington is one of the few states that allow people without proof of legal U.S. residency to get driver’s licenses.
Officials also said the agency would end its practice of collecting “information that isn’t mandated and could be misused,” such as information on license applications about where a person was born.
The agency also announced the resignation of Deputy Director Jeff DeVere, who oversaw compliance with an executive order signed last year by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to prevent state employees from helping federal officials enforce immigration laws.
Inslee, a critic of Republican President Donald Trump, has said Trump’s immigration policies were “mean-spirited” and break up families.
When information was passed to federal authorities, the Department of Licensing redacted a field on the driver’s-license application showing whether someone has a Social Security number but left visible fields showing where someone was born.
In a statement about changes at the agency, DOL Director Pat Kohler apologized, saying “our work did not align with our state’s values.”
She said DOL didn’t clearly communicate the nature of federal law enforcement requests to Inslee and the Legislature and failed to seek clarification about how to handle certain queries about records concerning criminal and civil immigration violations.
Inslee said “recent revelations about our state Department of Licensing’s failure to safeguard certain information from federal immigration officials has shaken and angered many communities. It has angered me.”
He said he would support efforts in the Legislature to support immigrants.
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