Wednesday, 20 March 2013 14:56

Ohio Driver’s Licenses Blocked for Some Illegal Immigrants

Driver’s licenses for some young immigrants who came to the United States illegally are being blocked by Ohio Department of Public Safety officials’ who question whether a new federal program gives those immigrants temporary legal status, the Insurance Journal recently reported.

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices are reaching different conclusions about the status of the young immigrants because they are not getting guidance from the Department of Public Safety that oversees the BMV office, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

State officials say they are not certain about whether the language of the federal program does confer legal status.

The federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established last year by the Obama administration gives immigrants who came here illegally as children two years of legal status. That status allowing them to get work permits and Social Security numbers is renewable every two years.

Government figures show that more than 150,000 young people nationwide had been approved for the program as of January, but some states have been issuing driver’s licenses to those in the program and others have not.

Carol Apaestegui and Jose Mendez, who live in northeast Ohio, came to the United States as immigrants when they were children and have been accepted in the new federal program. But Mendez was denied a license in Parma, while officials in Cleveland issued a license to Apaestegui, the newspaper reported.

“A woman at the bureau told me, ‘You’re not even supposed to be in this country,’” said Mendez, 20, who works shining shoes.

Joe Andrews, spokesman for Ohio’s Department of Public Safety, which oversees the BMV, said the department’s lawyers are studying the federal program to determine whether it “coincides” with Ohio law.

Andrews said the federal language is unclear and the department has not yet issued any guidance to BMV offices.

Cleveland immigration lawyer David Leopold said the department is wrong and officials are ignoring the law.