A critical bill for Ohio Latinos is scheduled to be heard by committee this week at the Statehouse. The House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee will hear sponsor testimony on House Bill 580 – legislation modeled after a provision in Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 – at 4:00 p.m. in Room 122 of the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday, November 14.
House Bill 580 would require a peace officer that is making an otherwise lawful stop, arrest or detention to verify the detainee’s immigration status if he has a “reasonable suspicion” that the detainee is present in the United States unlawfully. The bill would prohibit the arresting officer from considering “race, color or national origin” in determining whether or not he has reasonable suspicion. The bill also outlines forms of identification which – if valid and furnished by the detainee – would create a presumption of legal presence in the United States. The bill’s primary sponsors are Representatives Courtney Combs of Butler County and Matt Lynch of Geauga County.
The legislation is predicated upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s tacit upholding of the “show me your papers” provision of the controversial Arizona law earlier this year. That provision was one part of that law upheld by the Court – pending its interpretation by Arizona courts. Proponents of proactive immigration enforcement measures say that “illegal” immigrants are in violation of a law that must be enforced as any other law. They suggest a connection between illegal immigration and other criminal activity – notably drug and human trafficking – and that working undocumented immigrants contribute to persistent unemployment for American citizens. Those opposed to the measure fear its potential promotion of profiling. While the bill prohibits peace officers from considering “race, color or national origin”, there is no mechanism in the bill to enforce that prohibition. Further, many wonder which criteria will be permissible in calculating reasonable suspicion. They worry that Latinos would be unfairly targeted in the enforcement of this measure.
Wednesday’s hearing will be for sponsor testimony only. That is, only the bill’s sponsors will have the opportunity to address the Committee and to take questions from its members. Should the bill be received favorably by the Committee, further hearings will follow at which the public and interested parties will have a chance to testify.
In the wake of last week’s historic electoral turnout in Ohio and around the country, it’s imperative that Latinos exploit their augmented political capital. No matter where Ohio Latino leaders stand on the issue, and even in the absence of the opportunity to testify, it’s critical that community leaders attend this hearing. As the bill would impact them, it’s important that Ohio Latinos are a part of the legislative process from the beginning. I will attend and report to the community in any case. Please contact me with any questions or for logistical help in attending the hearing. I hope to see you there.
Nolan J. Stevens, J.D.
Public Policy Officer