Ohio Refuses to Issue Driver's Licenses to DACA Recipients

Since June 2012 many Ohio residents have been applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order enacted by Present Barack Obama that allows those who arrived in the United States as children to have a reprieve from deportation and obtain a work permit for a period of two years. Once the DACA application is approved, the applicant is issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is valid for a period of two years. The recipient can then take his/her EAD to the local Social Security Administration office and obtain a Social Security number so that he or she may work and pay taxes. Additionally, in Ohio, a DACA recipient was allowed to obtain a driver’s license at any BMV location within the state. The Ohio BMV website http://www.bmv.ohio.gov/acceptable_id_documents.stm provides a list of acceptable documents that can be presented in order to obtain a driver’s license. Among these acceptable documents are USCIS Documents, Social Security Card, and Employer Identification Card.

Until recently, approximately 200 DACA recipients in the state of Ohio received Driver’s Licenses by providing the BMV with the documents stated above. In January 2013 some BMV locations began denying DACA recipients Driver’s Licenses even though they had all the required proof. In the last month, all Ohio BMV locations decided to stop issuing driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. Ohio’s Administrative Code states that applicants for a driver’s license must have legal status in the United States. So the question is: Are DACA recipients considered to have legal status in the United States? Originally it was unclear whether DACA confers legal status, but recently USCIS clarified that DACA holders do have lawful presence in the United States for the two year period that they are granted deferred action.

Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, agrees that the BMV should allow DACA recipients to obtain driver’s licenses. The BMV has not spoken on whether there is an agency wide directive to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients but they do have reason to believe that some private contractors have been denying state identification cards. Those in favor of allowing DACA recipients to receive driver’s licenses have signed a petition addressed to BMV Registrar Mike Rankin, Governor John Kasich, and Public Safety Director Thomas Charles urging them to declare DACA recipients eligible for driver’s licenses in Ohio and to insure that all Ohio BMV locations comply with such directive.

Ohio joins Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, and Nebraska who also refuse to issue driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. This week Michigan joined approximately 33 other states who do allow driver’s licenses for DACA recipients. Law makers in Michigan decided to allow DACA recipients to obtain driver’s licenses after USCIS announced that they have lawful presence in the United States.

The good news is that Ohio law makers have not yet made a definitive decision on whether DACA recipients should be allowed to obtain driver’s licenses. The BMV is currently reviewing regulations from the federal government on whether Ohio law permits DACA recipients to obtain a driver’s license. Those DACA recipients who obtained a driver’s license prior to January 2013 should not be deprived of their privilege. If a favorable decision is reached then those who have EADs through DACA will be able to present those documents at their local BMV and obtain driver’s licenses.