Ohio

House Bill Would Prevent Illegal Immigrants from Receiving Driver’s Licenses

Policy

State Representative Matt Lynch, a Republican from Chagrin Falls, has introduced legislation to prevent the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) from issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, responding to a controversial decision from the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Attorney General Mike DeWine.

House Bill 114 (HB 114) would revert Ohio law to its prior state, before changes were made to comply with President Obama’s amnesty program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“House Bill 114 is actually in response to the federal attempt to impose upon the state of Ohio the requirement to issue driver licenses to those that are known to be in the state illegally. Prior to July 2012, it was very clear that such a person, now under the so-called ‘DACA’ system, would not be able to get a driver’s license,” Lynch explained in an interview with Media Trackers, referring to his proposal as the “ticket-to-ride” bill.

Attorney General DeWine, a Republican, recently advised Ohio Department of Public Safety lawyers that “the BMV would have to accept driver license applications from individuals that fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative because they can provide all of the information necessary.”

On March 29, BMV and ODPS officials agreed with DeWine’s guidance and began issuing temporary driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants covered by DACA. An example DACA driver’s license – virtually indistinguishable from a license issued to a legal resident - can be viewed here.

“We all know that a driver’s license is really an entry into so many other benefits,” Lynch said. “It may be simple benefits, like getting into the Statehouse building, or may be more complicated benefits, like getting on an airplane or even seeking some kind of government aid or assistance.”

Rep. Lynch also explained that granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants will cost Ohio taxpayers “a lot of money” because it will lead to state subsidization of illegal immigrants’ college education.

“If you’re illegally in Ohio and you’re a student, you cannot get in-state tuition – you’re essentially considered a foreign national, and you can’t get in-state tuition,” Lynch said. “However, one of the criteria for changing that, so you’d actually get discounted tuition, is that you that have an Ohio driver’s license, so you’re an Ohio ‘resident.’”

Offering illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates was one of many demands from union leaders, progressive activists, and illegal immigrants at a May 1 International Workers’ Day rally in downtown Columbus.

“Of course, I’ve already been labeled a ‘bigot’ and so forth by the blogosphere, for actually suggesting that we should uphold our laws,” Lynch joked.

Rep. Lynch remains optimistic about the prospects for HB 114 despite leftists’ accusations that the bill is racist, noting that he was “very pleased” with Ohio House of Representatives Transportation, Public Safety, and Homeland Security Subcommittee chairman Rex Damschroder’s support of the bill.

Senator Bill Seitz, a vocal opponent of the state’s recent DACA decision, told Media Trackers in a previous interview that he is prepared to support a reversal of the new BMV policy in the Ohio Senate.  However, the Cincinnati Republican was less optimistic about the bill’s chances, claiming that Governor John Kasich, a Republican, was involved in the decision to begin issuing licenses to illegal immigrants.

“Matt and I talked about it and I said to Matt, ‘well, good luck.’ I said, ‘have fun swimming upstream.’ If the governor and the attorney general were for Lynch’s bill, they wouldn’t have reached the decision that they reached – which is, as I’ve said, erroneous,” Seitz said. “I told Lynch, ‘look, if you can get it through the House, I will support it over here.’”

At publication, HB 114 remains under consideration in the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Subcommittee.

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