By Ruth Bayang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) Director Pat Kohler is stepping down.
It was revealed in January that the DOL was routinely sharing residents’ personal information with immigration-enforcement authorities.
The Latino Civic Alliance (LCA), a statewide Latino community organization, initiated the call for Kohler’s removal, and the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) of Washington state joined with LCA in building and leading a coalition of 18 state and community organizations to advocate and organize on the issue.
“I am proud of the Asian Pacific Islander community’s collaboration in the leadership, organizing, and advocacy to improve the safety of all immigrants and refugees, from every community, in our state,” said Diane Narasaki, executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS).
“Without [Narasaki’s] organization, leadership, support, and collaboration, the final result of … Kohler resigning would not have happened,” said LVC board chair Nina Martinez.
Martinez said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos recommended that Martinez contact Narasaki to build a stronger union.
“I truly believe we bridged our leaders statewide to collaborate and continue the work on issues that impact our communities and we care so deeply for,” said Martinez.
“Approximately 1 out of 5 Washingtonians is Latino or API, and these two communities have the largest numbers of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, in the state. Our two communities’ joint effort in addressing a danger to our communities was a great example of solidarity,” said Narasaki.
In an April 27 resignation letter announced on May 10, Kohler said the loss of her brother has caused her to reevaluate her priorities.
The Seattle Times reports Kohler did not mention the controversy around the department’s information-sharing practices, which stopped after the newspaper reported on them.
In his statement, Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t directly address the issue, but said it is important that the next director be “fully committed to our ongoing efforts to protect the personal information and data of every Washingtonian.’’
Former DOL Director Evelyn Yenson told the Northwest Asian Weekly, “It is critical that every department follows the governor’s policies, and particularly all Executive Orders including EO 2017-01 “reaffirming Washington’s Commitment to Tolerance, Diversity, and Inclusiveness.”
Kohler’s resignation takes effect June 30. Inslee’s office says a search for her replacement will begin immediately.
Ruth Bayang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.