COLUMBUS -- A Republican lawmaker wants the state to stop issuing driver's licenses to undocumented residents, whether those individuals have applicable federal paperwork or not.
Rep. Matt Lynch, a Republican from Geauga County, said a state policy that provides licenses to such individuals is only encouraging increased illegal immigration.
"We talk about giving driver's licenses, we talk about giving in-state tuition, we talk about giving social benefits to illegals (and) we're going to get more illegals," he said. "It acts as a magnet. You can't turn around and criticize the business community for hiring illegals and then as the state of Ohio, turn around and give the benefits to the same illegals. We have to discourage future immigration, and this is one way to do that."
Lynch and others spoke to reporters about the issue outside the Statehouse Tuesday morning prior to an afternoon legislative hearing.
Many of their comments focused on the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, finalized last year by President Barack Obama and effectively deferring legal action against immigrants who came to the country as children.
About 1,500 Ohioans are enrolled. Eligibility criteria include moving to the United States prior to turning 16, living in the country since 2007, enrolling or graduating from a school, being honorably discharged from the armed services and avoiding criminal activities.
There was statewide confusion earlier in the year, as some bureaus of motor vehicles denied licenses to DACA document holders. The situation, Lynch said, has since been resolved, and BMVs are accepting the paperwork for identification purposes by license applicants.
But Lynch opposes that move, saying the affected individuals are still living in the country illegally. And he has introduced legislation that would block anyone who is not a U.S. citizen from obtaining an Ohio driver's license.
"No one ever anticipated that the federal government would actually begin issuing essentially 'Get Out of Jail Free' cards to illegals and then taking those cards to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and getting a driver's license," Lynch said. "Those that are not here legally will not get a driver's license."
Steve Salvi, founder of the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, added concerning children of undocumented workers, "They got a great free K-12 education, courtesy of the American taxpayer. These folks can go back to their nations, actually, with a good American education. They can be of 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."
Statehouse Democrats have introduced legislation that would ensure license eligibility for children of immigrants enrolled in the DACA program.
"These are young people who were brought here, through no actions of their own," Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) said earlier this year. "They're abiding by the desires of their parents, so they shouldn't be penalized."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.