Nolan Stevens, J.D., Public Policy Officer, Ohio Latino Affairs CommissionCommunity Leaders;
On Tuesday, April 16th I attended a meeting of the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee where the committee heard sponsor testimony from Representative Matt Lynch on his House Bill 114.
House Bill 114 would make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients ineligible for an Ohio driver’s license. The bill was introduced just days after the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced on March 29 that the agency would begin issuing licenses to DACA recipients across the state.
Representative Lynch said that President Obama issued an “executive order” in June of 2012 that allows people that “illegally” entered the United States to stay for two years under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He noted that prior to DACA, no one without a legal immigration status could get a driver’s license in Ohio, and noted that DACA is prosecutorial deferred action – it does not confer legal status. He did not mention that DACA does confer legal presence. Representative Lynch said that his bill, which would alter the Ohio Revised Code, was not “new law’, and that he sought only to return to the “status quo ante”, or the situation before deferred action. He said that Ohio should get to decide to whom the state will grant licenses, and contended that we are not just “subjects” of the federal government. He noted that two states – Arizona and Nebraska – have already taken formal action to forbid licenses to DACA recipients. He also said that the President inappropriately side-stepped congress in administratively instituting DACA, which he said Congress implicitly rejected by voting down the DREAM Act in December of 2010.
Representative Lynch made available a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) that quantified the cost on Ohioans of undocumented immigrants and their U.S. born children. This was submitted to the committee and the audience along with his testimony, both of which I have attached to this email. The study claims that undocumented immigrants and their U.S.-born children cost Ohioans more than $800 million annually in state services, and an average annual overhead of $200 per U.S. citizen-led Ohio household. Representative Lynch said that the state does not recoup its losses through taxing them. He said “illegal” immigration is harmful to Ohio, and that granting licenses to DACA recipients, as 40 other states have done, would provide an incentive for other costly undocumented immigrants to migrate to Ohio. Finally, he noted that in 2007 – well before the advent of the DACA program – an overwhelming 84% of Ohioans polled said they opposed the issuing of driver’s licenses to “illegals”.
Representative Robert Hagan asked Representative Lynch about FAIR and the study’s methodology, because he did not find the numbers credible. He later noted that FAIR was a hate group tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, of which he’s been a member since the 1970’s. Representative Lynch responded that he didn’t know that FAIR was branded a hate group by the SPLC, but dismissed the SPLC as a “radical left wing” group that labels far too many organizations as “hate groups”. Representative Hagan read some inflammatory and racially-charged quotes from a FAIR leader and asked if Representative Lynch agreed with them, and he replied that he didn’t.
Representative Bill Patmon said that if the Committee would address immigration, it should address “both sides” – both the undocumented immigrants and the unscrupulous employers that create the market for underpaid and marginalized workers. Representative Lynch said these jobs would be better-filled by U.S. citizens or legal immigrants, which would also make it impossible for companies to exploit their employers in the way that they exploit undocumented workers presently. Representative Patmon also noted that almost everyone present was an immigrant at some point in his or her history, and wondered what difference exists between today’s undocumented workers and pilgrims aboard the Mayflower. At this, Chairman Rex Damschroder noted that the difference is that the pilgrims didn’t migrate to a sovereign state, as the U.S. was not yet a country as it is today. Representative Patmon noted that he has Native American heritage and that he would disagree with an assertion that there was no country when the pilgrims arrived.
In response to a question regarding the operation of the bill from Representative Dale Mallory, Representative Lynch speculated that municipal court judges would be forced to rule on OMVI charges against DACA grantees, who would be disqualified from renewing their DACA status if convicted of an OMVI. Representative Terry Johnson asked the Sponsor if he knew how many countries on Earth granted drivers licenses to illegal residents, and guessed that it might just be the United States.
Chairman Damschroder asked if this bill would make Ohio’s highways safer if it were passed. Representative Lynch acknowledged that there is some discussion about whether it would be better to have these drivers trained and insured, but said that as they are already “lawbreakers” for entering and residing in the United States illegally, and therefore it wouldn’t make sense to assume they would obey the traffic laws simply because they were licensed drivers. Finally, Representative Anthony DeVitis asked what the relevance of the FAIR study on the costs of undocumented immigrants to DACA and driver’s licenses. Representative Lynch said that issuing these licenses would invite further costly illegal immigration to Ohio.
Finally, on a related note, Representatives Dan Ramos of Lorain and Alicia Reece of Cincinnati will soon introduce legislation that will explicitly state that DACA recipients are eligible for Ohio driver’s licenses. This will be a companion bill in the Ohio House to Senate Bill 62, introduced by Senator Charleta Tavares and Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney.
If the legislation gets another hearing, it will likely be for proponent or opponent testimony, or perhaps both. I will continue to monitor the legislation’s progress, and to continue to keep the community updated. In the meantime, if I can help you contact a legislator, better understand some facet of the bill or the process or get involved in another way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Nolan Stevens, J.D.
Public Policy Officer
Ohio Latino Affairs Commission ~ Advise.Connect.Build.
Riffe Center ~ 18th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108
Office: (614) 466-8333
Direct: (614) 728-8364
Cell: (614) 266-0415
Fax: (614) 995-0896