Washington state gov warns driver licensing bureau not to help ICE

As Congress faces a deadline to deal with the DACA program, a story in Washington state is revealing how divisive the issue of illegal immigration is.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee recently learned the state’s Department of Licensing was sharing information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It prompted Inslee to put up his own wall to block any future cooperation and protect those in the country illegally.

"We believe people who we have helped educate, who have been here for decades, deserve to have the protection we've already given them,"said Inslee. "It's most unfortunate that the president and his ICE is essentially threatening them with deportation."

In Washington state, getting a driver’s license does not require U.S. citizenship. But the state did record where applicants were born. The Department of Licensing was treating ICE exactly like every other law enforcement agency, providing collected information only when given a name and specific crime being investigated. Now, ICE alone has a much higher bar.

"We have stopped releasing information relative to immigration violations, and from here forward we're going to require a court order to do such," said Krista Carlson, a Washington state Department of Licensing spokeswoman.

Inslee has also hired Michelle Gonzalez as a special assistant. Her job is to make sure no state agency gives ICE any information that is not specifically required by law. She’ll also comb through state records to determine if agencies are currently collecting immigration information they should not.

Some Republican lawmakers are angry.

"This is like trying to make this a sanctuary state," said state Sen. Curtis King. "If we're not going to allow federal agencies to go after those that are committing crimes in cities and communities in our state, that’s what it amounts to."

ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, has recently said policies like those in Washington state might be violating federal laws against harboring illegal aliens. Groups opposed to illegal immigration agree.

"The governor is exposing Washington state to litigation, because he is picking and choosing which law enforcement agencies he is going to give information to," said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. "He doesn’t get to do that."

An ICE official tells Fox News its licensing inquiries are not blanket fishing expeditions, but rather part of targeted criminal investigations going after individuals who pose a national security risk or public safety threat.