OCHLA: Ohio immigration
February 9, 2012 · Print This Article
Last week on Tuesday, the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee met to hear several bills – including sponsor testimony on House Bill 378 which deals with undocumented immigrants. The Committee also heard additional sponsor testimony on House Bill 333, which also touches on questions ofimmigration. I’ve provided links to excellent Legislative Service Commission analyses on the two bills at the end of their respective sections, as well as links to the actual text of the legislation. The bills received only sponsor testimony – no members of the public were invited or could have testified. I will alert the community as soon as the bill is scheduled for another hearing, or for proponent-or-opponent testimony. As ever, I am enthusiastic about supporting and facilitating any testimony, meetings or contact with legislators the community desires. Please contact me with questions or for further support.
House Bill 333
Representative Ron Young (R – Leroy Township) – who sponsored both bills – began by giving clarifying sponsor testimony on HB 333. That legislation would provide for a non-citizen, non-resident alien that is present in the United States legally to have a valid Ohio driver’s license that would activate one week before such a person’s legal residency begins and terminate ten days after that period ends. The legislation would also provide for the fee for such a license to be pro-rated.
Representative Young said the bill is aimed primarily at the 2,000 or so migrant workers that come to Ohio for agricultural labor every year under the H-2A Visa. He said they are almost exclusively Mexican, and that there are a couple of problems with the way the system presently operates. He said because current Ohio licenses cannot issue before the commencement of their legal residency according to their visa, such laborers are being stopped and arrested on the way to Ohio. He also said that presently these laborers are forced to purchase traditional four-year Ohio driver’s licenses that expire concurrently with their H-2A Visas. The legislation includes a fee schedule for the issuance of pro-rated licenses of much shorter duration than the four-year licenses and at a proportionally reduced cost. He said that nursery owners and other agricultural proprietors that utilize this labor support this bill – perhaps partially because they often pay these license fees. He also said that this legislation could be implemented for less than $50,000 of state money. Finally, Representative Young said that this legislation was about treating people fairly – he said the current protocol unjustly penalizes migrant families and their employers.
Representative Rex Damschroder (R – Fremont) asked why the legislation wouldn’t simply allow a migrant’s Ohio license to be valid during the times their visas grant them here for four years at a time, per license. Representative Young said that the Ohio BMV much-preferred his model. Representative Dale Mallory (D – Cincinnati) asked why the legislation wouldn’t simply allow Ohio to recognize Mexican driver’s licenses or international driver’s licenses instead. He also said that he represented native Ohioans that crave these jobs and temporary licenses, and that people unfamiliar with everyday routines and driving habits in Ohio could “get in trouble” or into accidents.
Finally, Representative Bill Patmon (D – Cleveland) asked why these Visas last for six to nine months while the growing season is significantly-shorter than that. Representative Young indicated that those durations were parameters of the Visa program rather than his legislation. Representative Patmon said that Ohio’s systems were already “over-loaded” – agency bureaucracy and basic security included – and that they did not need additional responsibilities. He also said that the legislation seemed designed for the benefit of the employers of these workers – not the workers themselves. Representative Young said that he was “shocked” that representative Patmon “would resist this” and that it was a basic question of justice and respect.
House bill 333 Text: http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/analyses129/h0333-i-129.pdf
House Bill 333 LSC Analysis: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=129_HB_333
House Bill 378
HB 378 would change Ohio law to require law enforcement arresting an undocumented person – if certain conditions of the arrest are met – to contact the Ohio Attorney General to initiate the termination of state services to that individual. The legislation would work like this: If ICE notifies arresting officers that the arrestee matches their profile of a person that is in the United States illegally, and if arresting law enforcement determine that the suspect had been issued an Ohio driver’s license or he or she provided a false or altered Ohio driver’s license – or a license belonging to another person – as identification, then the responsibility to inform the Ohio Attorney General would attach. The Attorney General would in-turn be required to notify the Secretary of State, Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Job and Family Services of the arrestee’s name and undocumented status. Those agencies would be required to cancel any voter registration, driver’s license or state benefits the arrestee may have or receive. An important caveat – benefits that cannot be terminated under federal law also could not be terminated by ODJFS under this legislation – they are specifically exempted. Finally, the legislation would require the Attorney General to acquire and publish monthly data on any undocumented arrestees that were found through this legal apparatus to receive any of these state services or benefits.
The legislation relies on the Secure Communities program that is run through the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Understanding the legislation requires a grasp on Secure Communities. I know that many of you are experts in the evolving arena of immigration law and policy, but I’ve included a brief primer on the program.
Secure Communities is live in every jurisdiction in Ohio, and requires that an arrestee’s fingerprints are checked not only against FBI criminal records, but also against ICE’s biometric immigration records. If ICE records indicate that the arrestee is present in the United States illegally, local law enforcement detains that person until ICE can take custody of them – typically to initiate deportation proceedings. In implementing these proceedings, ICE prioritizes the removal of those most dangerous to public safety. This assessment is based on the nature of the arrestee’s crimes, his or her criminal record, his or her status as a repeat-violator of immigration laws and other factors.
Proponents say Secure Communities is a non-invasive, low-cost way to marry immigration enforcement and those best-placed to carry it out – local law enforcement. However, Secure Communities is highly controversial. While the official policy is prioritization, many point to the high number of deportations of non-violent persons though Secure Communities. Other detractors also say the error rate is unacceptably high – and as a result United States citizens are sometimes detained and even deported.
The bill’s primary sponsor – Representative Ron Young – delivered sponsor testimony to the committee yesterday afternoon. He said that no one knew or had any data regarding unauthorized consumption of state services by the undocumented. He said that at a meeting in Painesville with Hispanic constituents he was assured that no undocumented Latinos were “gaming the system”. He also said that other constituents complain to him that undocumented Hispanics in his district are voting, driving and receiving welfare benefits. His purpose, then, is to discern the truth and determine whether undocumented immigrants are receiving state benefits and services for which they are not eligible and, if they are, to close the “holes in the system”.
Representative Young said that the additional responsibilities of the Ohio agencies and law enforcement under HB 378 would not attach during a given arrest until several thresholds are met. There must be an arrest and a “booking” – a processing of fingerprints – for Secure Communities to be implicated in the first place. When Representative Patmon asked if this could be triggered for a routine traffic stop, Representative Young said that it could not. Representative Young said that if ICE flagged this individual as a “person of interest” through the Secure Communities database check – the second threshold – it meant two things: First, that the person was present in the United States illegally, and second that the person was a “serious criminal”. Finally, once ICE has flagged such an individual, arresting law enforcement must make a determination as to whether the arrestee had been issued an Ohio driver’s license or presented a false, altered or borrowed Ohio license as identification during the stop. This is the third threshold. Such a finding would constitute probable cause to search for the individual’s voter registration status and ODJFS benefits. The additional agency responsibilities would only trigger once all three thresholds are met, according to Representative Young’s explanation.
Representative Patmon also asked whether an undocumented immigrant’s presence in the United States was itself a crime, and Chairman Courtney Combs (R – Hamilton) and Representative Young answered that it was. Finally, Representative Patmon noted that in one bill Representative Young claims to be helping Latino immigrants and in the other he seems to be going after them.
House Bill 378 Text: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=129_HB_378
House Bill 378 Analysis: http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/analyses129/h0378-i-129.pdf