OLYMPIA (April 30, 2018) — Under the Director Pat Kohler’s leadership, the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) failed to comply with Governor Jay Inslee’s Executive Order prohibiting use of state agency resources to identify or apprehend immigrants for violations of federal immigration laws for a year after he issued it.
DOL gave personal information to federal immigration authorities (ICE) and helped ICE identify and locate our immigrant neighbors, against the Governor’s Executive Order. They are now at risk of being ripped from their families and communities and being deported.
After the DOL’s violation of the governor’s executive order became public, Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, wrote Gov. Inslee to call for Kohler’s resignation. In doing so, the WSLC joined the Latino Civic Alliance, El Centro de la Raza, Washington State League of United Latin American Citizens, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington State, Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute, and the Coalition on Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color and several other organizations in calling for her removal.
TAKE A STAND — Today, many of the above-listed organizations are urging action! Please call 360-902-4111 and urge Gov. Jay Inslee to remove Pat Kohler as Director of the Department of Licensing. Her failed leadership affects thousands of state residents and she must be held accountable and removed.
Here is Johnson’s letter that was sent last month to Gov. Inslee:
On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, I am writing to inform you that after much reflection we are joining with our community allies and immigrant rights advocates in calling for the resignation of Department of Licensing (DOL) Director Pat Kohler. I sat on the interview committee that recommended Pat Kohler for the Director’s position at DOL. It is now clear that she was the wrong person and that DOL needs to make changes to restore public trust and faith after the injustices committed against communities of color targeted by the federal Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And those changes need to start at the top.
On Feb. 23, 2017, you signed Executive Order 17-01, Reaffirming Washington’s Commitment to Tolerance, Diversity, and Inclusiveness. Directive #8 forbids the use of “agency or department monies, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel for the purpose of targeting or apprehending persons for violation of federal civil immigration laws, except as required by federal or state law or otherwise authorized by the Governor.”
We now know that the DOL ignored or defied this order by actively collaborating with ICE to do exactly what you have expressly forbidden. As a result, hundreds of Washington residents are now under threat of being apprehended or deported, including Maru Mora-Villalpando, a nationally known immigrant leader and human rights advocate who was likely targeted by ICE because of her advocacy on behalf of immigrant prisoners being treated inhumanely at the for-profit Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
Maru is a valiant warrior fighting for the rights of immigrants, workers, and their families and she is a friend of the WSLC. We should be protecting her ability to speak out against injustice and not cooperating with ICE to hush up the shame that we all bear in our nation’s mistreatment of immigrants.
Under Director Kohler’s leadership, the DOL’s failure to comply with your order has increased distrust in government at the worst possible time, when immigrant communities in our state are being terrorized and families ripped apart by other agents of the government. It will take time — and decisive action – for our state government to regain trust in our immigrant communities. Although positive steps are being taken to mitigate the damage and assurances are being made that the DOL will no longer collaborate with ICE, we stand alongside the immigrant communities harmed by the agency’s actions in calling for new leadership at the DOL.
Therefore, we join the Latino Civic Alliance, El Centro de la Raza, Washington State League of United Latin American Citizens, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington State, Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute, and the Coalition on Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color in calling for the resignation of DOL Director Pat Kohler. We ask that you include leaders from our immigrant communities to participate in the selection of a new Director for DOL.
Jeffrey G. Johnson