The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles is "reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law" in an attempt to decide what to do about certain young, illegal immigrants applying for an Ohio driver's license. The immigrants in question recently obtained valid federal work permits through an Obama administration program call Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Last month, 21-year-old Ever Portillo of Reynoldsburg was granted an employment authorization card through the DACA program. Together with a new, temporary social security card, Portillo thought he had everything he needed to apply for an Ohio driver's license. He passed the road test but was denied a license.
"They asked me for my ID's and I gave it to them and then the lady was like - we cannot take this - it's a C33," he said.
C33 is the Homeland Security category listed on Portillo's work authorization card. Homeland Security says Portillo is now considered "lawfully present" in the United States. Ohio BMV rules say you need to show U.S. citizenship or "legal presence".
Attorney Brian Hoffman says the BMV appears "genuinely confused" about the issue."Under Ohio law, as it is currently written, these people are eligible for a driver's license," Hoffman said. "They're lawfully present in the U.S. according to Homeland Security. So for the BMV to say otherwise, I think raises some serious state and federal legal issues."
Hoffman and Portillo returned to the BMV this week and this time Portillo was given his license - no questions asked.
"This means a lot to me," Portillo said. "I fully can be driving and without fear of being pulled over."
But Hoffman says no sooner had one of his clients received his license this week than he got a call from the mother of another young Hispanic immigrant. "She and her son went to the exact same office with the exact same paperwork less than 24 hours later and were denied."
The BMV has not provided a timeframe for when it will clarify its policy.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has announced plan to begin issuing a new driver's license to DACA eligible residents. The license will have a bright pink stripe and the bold words "NO LAWFUL STATUS," raising concerns about whether the design will stigmatize those who show it.
Meanwhile, conservative North Carolina lawmakers filed a bill Thursday to bar the DMV from granting the licenses, saying the issue needs more scrutiny. Sponsoring Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union) says President Barack Obama's executive order creating the new immigration program violates the Constitution.