Back in February we blogged about how Ohio public safety officials were denying driver’s licenses to young immigrants who had recently been issued work permits under a new program announced by President Obama last year. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allows young people who came to the United States without authorization to apply for a work permit and social security number if they: 1) came here before the age of 16; 2) have been in the U.S. for the last six years; 3) are either in school, have graduated from high school, or have served in the armed forces; and 4) have not been convicted of any serious crimes and are not a threat to national security. For several months Ohio BMV officials would say only that they were studying the issue internally, all the while denying licenses to individuals who the federal government had explicitly said were allowed to live and work in the United States. Finally, after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told the Columbus Dispatch that he thought Ohio law as written did include DACA recipients within the driver’s license eligibility requirements, BMV officials relented and began allowing DACA recipients to apply for driver’s licenses on March 29. [Read more…]
Yesterday, I told you about SB 323 a bill that is a solution in search of a problem. Today, let’s talk about why it isn’t even a very good solution. To recap: The bill is sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz a Cincinnati-area Republican. It would prohibit undocumented workers from receiving worker’s compensation benefits. There are two huge problems with this aside from what was discussed earlier. First, the bill imposes a huge new regulatory burden on the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, by requiring BWC to make a determination on each applicant’s immigration status. BWC would have to make the kinds of immigration status determinations that are often aggressively litigated up and down the federal court system for months or years. It will have to do so without any additional funding or training because the bill provides no additional resources to BWC. Second, the bill makes it harder for workers to get compensation when they are injured on the job. Under the bill, as part of the process of proving their eligibility for workers’ compensation, all injured workers will have to include what is essentially an affidavit that they are authorized to work in the United States. This new burden will be imposed on all applicants, but the administrator of the BWC can also request additional proof from some of them if he or she believes that the affidavit is not valid. Now, let’s be honest about who this is going to impact – after all, how many white, English-speaking applicants with European-sounding names are likely to have their legal right to work in the U.S. questioned? One man who was actually testifying in favor of the bill inadvertently illustrated the problem with the proposed system when he admitted that it would “open up the [BWC] administrator to charges of racism.” Yesterday we documented that Seitz himself can’t even show that there is a need for this legislation. That fact along with these two (perhaps) unintended consequences ought to be enough evidence that this lame duck bill needs to be put out of its misery.
Tuesday, the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee heard supporter and opponent testimony during the third hearing on SB 323, a workers’ compensation bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz (R – Cincinnati). The bill would “prohibit illegal and unauthorized aliens from receiving compensation” under Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Law. While it might sound like a good idea to make sure the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation (BWC) isn’t issuing payments to people who aren’t supposed to be here anyway, the devil, as they say, is in the details. In this case, SB 323 would make it more difficult for injured workers to collect the state-administered benefits that their employers are required to pay for. The bill would require injured workers to prove that they are authorized to work in the United States before they can receive benefits. Given that this bill has received three hearings in the Ohio Senate, this must be a big problem for Ohio, right? Nope. Seitz said at an earlier hearing that the state does not collect data on the immigration status of injured workers receiving compensation, so there is no way to know whether even a single cent of state BWC funds has ever benefited an undocumented worker. Tomorrow, I’ll share another couple of big problems with this bill.
Fresh from an election that saw them win a majority of seats – despite winning fewer total votes than their Democratic peers, Ohio Republicans wasted no time in getting back to an agenda that bolsters Ohio’s economy and encourages job creation. Oh wait – that’s not what happened at all. Yesterday, the same day that another Ohio House Committee passed a bill to block funding to Planned Parenthood, the Transportation, Public Safety, and Homeland Security Committee heard sponsor testimony on a new bill (HB 580) that would require Ohio’s police officers to check the immigration status of persons suspected of being in the country illegally. The bill would require police officers doing even routine traffic stops to make a complicated set of determinations about whether it’s “reasonable” to suspect that someone is in the county illegally, whether it’s “practicable” to try to figure out if they actually are, and whether trying to make that determination would “hinder or obstruct” an investigation. It also requires the officer to make all of these decisions without relying on race, color or national origin. Testifying in support of their bill, Reps. Courtney Combs (R-Fairfield) and Matt Lynch (R-Chagrin Falls) managed to pack enough racially insensitive asides and offensively misinformed assertions into their few minutes of testimony to provoke expressions of outrage and even derisive laughter on several occasions from those attending the hearing. At one point, attendees laughed openly at Rep. Combs’ assertion that “[Racial] profiling is not what it was many years ago.” Combs was eloquently corrected later on by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) who assured him, to murmurs of approval from the gallery, that profiling is indeed a continuing problem for racial minorities. [Read more…]