February 21st, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, Government, Immigration, Governor

Ohio's Illegal Immigrant Policy Remains Unclear

BMV reviewing driver's license rules for DACA recipients

news1_licensesIllustration: Julie Hill

Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is granting driver’s licenses to some of the children of illegal immigrants, but what qualifies a few and disqualifies others is so far unknown.

When CityBeat last covered the BMV policy (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6), Ever Portillo, a 22-year-old from El Salvador, was unable to get his license even when he was accompanied by his attorney at the West Broad Street BMV office in Columbus. Since then, Portillo returned to the same BMV office with his attorney, a community leader from DreamActivist Ohio and a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch and successfully obtained his license.

At the same time, CityBeat received a tip from an anonymous illegal immigrant after she could not get a driver’s license for her son because, according to what she heard from the BMV, state policy is still being reviewed.

The differences between Portillo and the woman’s experiences are reflected by what seems to be an internal conflict at the BMV, which CityBeat found in a series of internal documents sent by Brian Hoffman, Portillo’s attorney.

In emails dating back to January, state officials wrote that “foreign nationals” with C33 Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and I-797 documents with case types I-765D and I-821D cannot qualify for driver’s licenses. The documents are part of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.

But a Feb. 13 memo from the BMV says Ohio has not issued a statewide policy on DACA for driver’s licenses and is currently reviewing the process. A Feb. 19 email echoes the memo, stating “neither the Department (of Public Safety) nor the BMV has yet issued a statewide broadcast to provide direction regarding the DACA issue.” In a Feb. 21 email, Lindsey Borher, spokesperson at the BMV, told CityBeat, “Our legal department is in the process of reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.”

The discrepancy between January and February may be attributable to CityBeat originally breaking the story on the state policy, which was followed by a barrage of statewide media coverage on the issue.

02.22.2013 at 10:18 Reply

Thanks for this excellent update, as well as your initial reporting on the issue.

The President made it clear that these young people had no choice in their families' bringing them here and that they should have a right to work and go to school.  This is often impossible without transportation.  A driver's license may be a rite of passage for suburban youth, but it is necvessity for those who need to work to support themselves. 

Tragic that, just as these hardworking youth can finally step out of the shadows the state policy is making it impossible for them to act on the President's action.


02.22.2013 at 12:12 Reply

While some uninformed people continue to hold on to a notion of "illegal aliens" as lawbreakers disrupting our society, these young people are following all the rules and doing their best to contribute responsibly --not only to the well-being of their families, but also to the wider community and society.  Why would a state agency assumethe right to over-ride federal policy against them, without any input from citizens in this state?  The Ohio BMV should follow current federal mandates, making our streets safer and clearing the way for exemplary young people to take responsibility for themselves as they enter adulthood.