By Sophia Stephens
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Pat Kohler, who angered immigration groups earlier this year, has been rehired by the state.
During her tenure as the director of the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL), Kohler oversaw the sharing of driver’s license applications and other sensitive information with federal immigration enforcement. On May 10, Kohler announced her resignation. In spite of widespread calls for Kohler to not return to public office, Kohler has been re-hired by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) as its deputy director.
Kohler was the Board’s director prior to her position at the DOL.
“It is with great disappointment that a governor whom I thought I could trust to look out for the most vulnerable residents in our state, has rehired Pat Kohler… a person who has put the lives of those vulnerable residents at risk,” said Velma Veloria, a former Washington State Representative.
“She needs to be removed in any position in this administration,” Veloria continued. “If Governor Inslee wants to be taken seriously as the champion for immigrants rights, he needs to re-consider maintaining Ms. Kohler in any state position.”
Kohler’s profile on the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrator’s website detailed her direct influence on “the regulatory and enforcement functions for more than 17,000 liquor licenses and … the early development of policies for a new regulatory system for cannabis.” Kohler is filling the WSLCB position left by current Deputy Director Peter Anatolin, who retired.
The DOL’s information-sharing practices, which went against an executive order from Gov. Jay Inslee that was meant to prevent state cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, was apparently routine until a Seattle Times exposé. The information gathered from the forms that were turned over were used in multiple arrests and deportations.
“She (Kohler) knows our business, our systems, and our priorities,” said Brian E. Smith, the WSLCB’s communications director. “She will be an asset to the agency.”
The Coalition of Immigrants Refugees and Communities of Color, Latino Civic Alliance, El Centro de la Raza, and Asian Counseling and Referral Service — who called for Kohler’s ouster from the KOL — declined to comment.
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