Uniformity Needed In State's Administration Of Deferred Action Program
State Rep. Alicia Reece offers amendment to prevent discriminatory, arbitrary driver's license decisions
February 27, 2013
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State Representative Alicia Reece (D- Cincinnati), President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, offered an amendment to the state’s transportation budget today that would ensure the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) follows federal guidelines to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants. She was joined in her effort by State Representative Dan Ramos (D-Lorain).

Through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), some immigrant applicants are eligible to receive driver’s licenses after meeting qualifications outlined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). So far, the state’s issuance of licenses to eligible applicants has been spotty at best, and has left many applicants without answers as to why they were denied a license by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

“Ohio’s executive branch needs serious guidance on following this federal directive,” said Rep. Reece. “We can’t arbitrarily decide whether or not an eligible applicant receives a driver’s license. People have work permits, social security numbers and want to contribute to society. Treatment of individuals so far has left them victimized. My amendment would remove that negative and damaging element from Ohio’s licensing process.”

Currently, 31 states adhere to DACA and allow undocumented individuals to obtain their driver’s license under President Obama’s Dream Act Executive Order. Ohio was one of the states, but many undocumented individuals who qualify for DACA are being denied a driver’s license. And two weeks ago the Bureau of Motor Vehicles stopped issuing drivers licenses and threatened to revoke the nearly 200 that have been issued.

“The idea that one would have to bring their attorney to obtain a driver’s license is absurd,” said Rep. Ramos. “These individuals, who have been granted a specific status by the Federal government, should not have to jump through unnecessary and discriminatory hoops in order to obtain this document. Having access to transportation allows these individuals to get to work, to pay taxes and to provide for their families – as they should be able to do. Furthermore, unless Ohio adopts policies that adhere to the Federal guidelines, we are at risk of facing costly litigation that could be entirely avoided by just following the directive that has already been given.”

Under the federal program, young people that came to the United States can avoid deportation for up to two years by meeting stringent criteria designed by DHS to show an individual does not pose a public safety risk or security threat. The application for deferred action is approved or denied on a case-by-case basis.

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