Consequences of their actions.
The Ohio BMV has been sued for discriminating against children of undocumented immigrants by not allowing their parents to cosign on their driver’s license or state ID card applications — even if their children are U.S. citizens.
Esther Aulis-Cabrera was denied the opportunity to get her temporary driver’s license at 15. She didn’t know she was one of thousands of Ohio teenagers facing similar circumstances.
Aulis-Cabrera is a U.S. citizen who was born in the country but was denied her license because her mother is from Mexico and doesn’t have the legal status in this country to cosign for her, a state requirement for minors getting their licenses.
The little-known but longstanding Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles policy also prevents other adults from cosigning “unless he or she obtains custody or legal guardianship of the minor applicant,” according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the agency.
Advocates estimate the policy stands to affect more than 3,000 teenage minors who are currently eligible to get a temporary permit, driver’s license or state identification card in Ohio.
That includes minors who are U.S. citizens as well as others with legal status, such as those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That Obama-era program allows those brought here illegally as children to stay in the country, work and, in Ohio, to get their driver’s licenses.
“We’re suing the BMV for a policy which we believe is unconstitutional,” said Emily Brown, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, a nonprofit legal firm based in Dayton. “They are essentially preventing them from getting a driver’s license until they turn 18.
“The Ohio Revised Code says minors have to have a cosigner, but it says another responsible adult can do it if the parent can’t cosign,” she said. “The BMV could interpret the law to mean if the parent can’t cosign another adult in the community can, but the BMV is not allowing other adults to do that.”
The lawsuit asks the court to allow other adults to cosign a minor’s application if a parent grants permission.
Brown said her firm decided to file the lawsuit after it learned about the policy and after extensive conversations about their concerns with the BMV led nowhere.
A BMV spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the agency doesn’t discuss pending litigation.
The denial or delay of a driver’s license or state ID hinders the ability of children of undocumented immigrants “to travel to their places of school and employment, transport other family members, provide identification for purposes of opening a bank account or obtaining employment, and otherwise participate fully in civic life,” according to the 27-page complaint filed Oct. 16.