In a low-profile measure, whether a person is a “non-citizen” will now be printed on driver’s licenses and state ID cards under a controversial law Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine just signed.
Critics worry that the requirement solves a problem that doesn’t exist while making it harder for documented immigrants to get the identification they need to function — and possibly driving some deeper into the shadows.
Immigrant advocates also worry that the legislation could expose immigrants to potential persecution maybe even violence.
Bill 458 House has already come under fire for numerous provisions that critics say make it harder to vote — especially in cities and communities of color that tend to support Democrats.
Among the requirements of the bill passed by the state’s GOP legislature, which limits fraud, is one of the county’s requirements for one ballot box. This is regardless of whether the county has one 13 thousand inhabitants or 1.3 million people.
Voters in Franklin County — the state’s largest — went 2-1 against former President Donald Trump in 2020. And because there was only one drop box in the district, early voters had to make their way to the Electoral Commission office on busy Morse Road and wait in lines that could last 90 minutes or more before they could cast their ballots.
Neither does HB 458 cancels the day of in-person early voting.
And, although it is possible voter fraud in the 2020 election was a microscopic 0.0005%, the new law intends to combat the perceived problem with a strict new voter ID requirement. Voting rights advocates fear that these provisions effectively disqualify many poor voters of color — especially those who are vastly overrepresented among 1 million Ohioans whose licenses are suspended for debt-related reasons.
Court proceedings was filed to end some of the law’s more controversial provisions. But one more aspect remained practically unnoticed — the requirement that driver’s licenses and state ID cards contain a mark stating that their owner is a “non-citizen”.
Corylee Drozda works with immigrants at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Legislation requiring ID to identify non-citizens was part of a separate bill, she said. When that failed, it was moved to HB 458, she said.
“Our big concern with the non-citizen designation is that it discourages non-citizens from obtaining a government ID and may make the process even more difficult for non-citizens at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles,” she said in an email. “Our customers often tell us that the BMV mistakenly rejected them because the BMV was not familiar with the type of document that shows their valid immigration status.”
However, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the requirement could in some cases protect immigrants from involuntarily voting illegally. In an email, he said that “while cases of voter fraud are indeed rare, the vast majority of such cases involve non-citizen voting. In these cases, non-citizens were often encouraged to register to vote, sometimes even at a (BMV office) using the voter program; circumstances will cascade as the application proceeds without noticing that the applicant is a non-citizen and the person will eventually be notified of a polling station in their area and asked to vote, which will cause some to do so and eventually be identified as an illegal non-citizen voter.”
Tierney added that it wasn’t Devine’s job to write the idea into law, but it may have merit.
“Although the wording was not suggested by our office, the scenario described above is real and has happened frequently, and it is not reasonable to see how the provision could have been drafted to reduce such cases,” he said.
But others find it dangerous to label people as non-citizens on the official identification cards they often have to show – including to law enforcement.
“There are a lot of people in Ohio who think there’s an incursion on the southern border and they might try to do something about it,” said Colin Morosi, associate policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
Ohioans have reasons to believe that.
Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Fox News, for example mercilessly promoted the threat of a “caravan of migrants” heading to the United States. Fox has drastically cut back on such coverage since the election. He then rebooted it ahead of November’s midterm elections, saying the “largest caravan of migrants in history” was headed for the southern border, Business Insider reported.
Despite the hype, there are immigrants are less likely than natives to commit crimesand they are more likely to be victims of hatred.
“Overall, being an immigrant or noncitizen was associated with an increased chance of being a victim of a hate crime,” criminologists Wesley S. McCann and Francis Boateng wrote in their 2020 study, “Analysis of Hate Crime Victimization Among Immigrants.”
Just last week, a 56-year-old woman allegedly stabbed an 18-year-old Asian woman in the head multiple times on a bus in Bloomington, Indiana. The alleged attacker told police she did it because she thought the 18-year-old was Chinese and killing her would leave “one less person to undermine our country”. This is reported by the Washington Post.
Southern Poverty Law Center said that such xenophobic hatred has been on the rise in recent decades.
“Immigrant hate groups are the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s, when xenophobia against immigrants began to rise to levels not seen in the US since the 1920s,” the group wrote. .
The report says that since Trump lost the presidency in 2020, anti-immigrant groups have been working with friendly law enforcement and government officials to try to clamp down on anti-immigrant policies promoted by the former president.
“Using a strategy focused on building relationships and mobilizing state and local actors inside and outside of government, the anti-immigrant movement continues to promote bigoted policies and messages, working to stop all aid for immigrants and their loved ones,” the report said. .
Drazda, of the Legal Aid Society, said calling non-citizens on state IDs would intimidate immigrants and could backfire by putting more unlicensed drivers on the road.
“The designation of a non-citizen is both unnecessary and harmful,” she said. “Our non-citizen customers already have to overcome many barriers to obtain a driver’s license or government ID. Due to language, cultural differences, unfamiliarity with the US legal system and fear of immigration authorities, many non-citizens in Ohio are hesitant to share their information with government agencies and report criminal activity in their communities. Adding a non-citizen mark to driver’s licenses and government IDs will only exacerbate these problems.”
Originally published Ohio Capital Journal. Republished here with permission.