The Washington State Department of Licensing has issued an emergency rule to change driver’s license requirements to help protect undocumented immigrants from a crackdown by federal authorities. Drivers no longer have to identify their place of birth.
State residents who apply for a standard driver’s license, instruction permit or I.D. won’t have to list a birthplace now, according to the order, which went into effect Friday.
The move is the latest in a West Coast war with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who are targeting the region.
Last month, California Attorney General Xavier Bercerra warned businesses that they could face up to a $10,000 fine in the sanctuary state if they provide federal officials access to a workplace or employee records without a subpoena. The warning followed a news report that ICE was preparing a major sweep in Northern California aimed at deporting about 1,500 immigrants.
Earlier this month, The Seattle Times reported that Washington’s Department of Licensing had been providing residents’ personal information to ICE that could be used to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. On Jan. 15 Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the practice halted immediately when he was alerted to it by the newspaper. Such information will now be provided only if agents obtain a court order.
The DOL announced then that it would also use an emergency rule to end its practice of collecting “information that isn’t mandated and could be misused,” in particular the birthplace requirement. The order was filed Jan. 19 and became effective Friday. The DOL will seek a permanent rule change.
A department deputy director resigned after the Times revealed the DOL had not been following the governor’s executive order. The director of the DOL apologized in a statement, saying, “We are sorry that our work did not align with our state’s values.”
Washington is one of a minority of states that allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license.
Inslee signed an executive order last year declaring that state and local authorities would not help federal officials deport immigrants in the state.
In early January, Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson sued the Motel 6 chain, claiming it violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act after the Phoenix New Times reported that six hotels had turned over guest information to ICE agents.