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Immigrants' groups call for DOL director to step down

Immigrants rights groups claim the director endangered families by cooperating with ICE.

More than a half dozen immigrant rights groups are calling for the resignation of the head of the Washington Department of Licensing.

The Latino Civic Alliance, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington State, Community to Community, El Centro de la Raza, GC Reforms, Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute, and the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC) held a joint press conference Wednesday demanding D.O.L. Director Pat Kohler step down.

They accuse the agency of endangering people and ripping families apart by cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The D.O.L. has been under fire since admitting last month that staffers had been sharing information with immigration agents. Even the governor said he was stunned and angry.

As a result, a deputy director resigned and the agency stopped requiring information about a person's place of birth.

But community leaders are demanding more changes, starting from the top.

"We've had people calling us all over afraid to renew their license," said Nina Martinez, board chair of Latino Civic Alliance. "Thinking if they go to renew, ICE is going to come to our door."

Last month Kohler acknowledged the D.O.L. had been violating Governor Inslee's 2017 executive order by sharing drivers license information with Immigrants and Customs Enforcement.

The groups called the practice a breach of public trust. And that even though a deputy director had already stepped down, that public trust had yet to be restored.

"Our community members are fearful," said Diane Narasaki, of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington State. "They are very concerned about whether they can apply for licenses or reapply for licenses. Those who do have licenses are worried they may be identified and apprehended. They are good contributing members of the community."

Kohler on Wednesday released a written statement, saying: “I remain deeply committed to implementing immediate changes and proper controls to ensure we are safeguarding our customers’ personal information. We are continuing to work with our stakeholders, immigrants’ rights groups and communities of color, as well as the Governor’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General to do a complete and thorough review of all data collection and sharing processes to make the necessary changes needed to protect all customer information."