But Attorney General Mike DeWine, in a letter to the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, concluded DACA grantees are eligible for licenses under existing Ohio law, rules and regulations.
More than 291,000 undocumented immigrants — including 1,779 in Ohio —have been accepted into the program after meeting several criteria, which include being enrolled in school, working after completing a degree or serving in the military. DACA status allows these individuals to work and attend school in the U.S. and grantees are eligible to receive a Social Security card.
Individuals granted deferred action do not possess legal status, but are considered “lawfully present” by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. State licensing rules require U.S. citizenship or “legal presence” along with documents verifying name and Social Security number.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates between 10,000 to 20,000 individuals in Ohio are eligible for DACA.
“The license is important for them to be able to get to work, to have a little bit more access to the things people in their age group should be doing,” said Nick Torres of DreamActivist Ohio, which advocates for permanent citizenship for youth illegally brought to the U.S. “For those who have gone to high school here, it’s an important rite of passage. It’s a way for them to be able to contribute back to the community.”
Officials in at least 45 states have issued driver’s licenses to DACA grantees. Only Arizona and Nebraska have not issued licenses to DACA grantees.
The BMV issued 716 licenses to DACA grantees since March 29. The licenses look the same as regular licenses, but have the words “NON-RENEWABLE AND NON-TRANSFERABLE” printed below the driver’s signature and have an earlier expiration date.
Groups on both sides of the issue say driver’s licenses are the tip of the iceberg for how states handle changes in federal immigration policy. Torres said the situation shows how changing immigration policy can cause confusion and he hopes the license process will help states better comply with future reforms.
Lynch and supporters of his bill worry the federal government will open the doors to more immigrants, noting the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission approved a resolution urging in-state college tuition for DACA grantees.
“They’re going to continue to expand these benefits to who knows where and we have to show the feds that Ohio is sovereign and we’re in charge,” Lynch said.
Steve Salvi, founder of the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, said youth brought illegally to the U.S. have benefited from a $100,000 taxpayer-paid K-12 education. Salvi supports deporting those immigrants.
“With a good American education, they can be a great value to Mexico or Colombia or wherever they came from. Let them be successful in their own countries and we’ll be happy to do trade with them,” Salvi said.
Torres said the DACA recipients he knows consider themselves American.
“They’ve grown up here,” Torres said. “They don’t have much identification with the country of their birth. They want to be able to live as normal a life as they can.”