New Ohio law requiring IDs to indicate if individual is 'noncitizen' sparks controversy

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has signed a controversial law that requires driver's licenses and state identification to indicate whether an individual is a "noncitizen."

Advocacy groups have condemned the move, arguing that the particular provision in House Bill 458 will make it harder for documented immigrants to obtain the IDs they need.

According to immigrant advocates, the inclusion of such information on identification cards could lead to discrimination and targeting of immigrant communities.

“Our biggest concerns about the noncitizen notation are that it will disincentivize noncitizens from getting a state ID and could make the process even more challenging for noncitizens at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles,” Corrylee Drozda, who works with immigrants for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, told the Ohio Capital Journal. “Our clients often tell us that the BMV wrongly turned them away because the BMV was not familiar with the type of document showing their eligible immigration status.”

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Drozda also argued that it is "unnecessary and harmful" to call out people as noncitizens on their IDs, saying, "Our noncitizen clients already must overcome many barriers to secure a driver’s license or state ID card."

"Due to language, cultural differences, unfamiliarity with the U.S. legal system, and fear of immigration enforcement, many noncitizen Ohioans are hesitant to share their information with government offices and report criminal activity in their communities," she continued.

The provision has also been heavily criticized for reportedly making it more difficult for many communities to vote.

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Among the requirements of the bill is limiting counties to only one ballot drop box, regardless of the county's population. The bill also eliminates a day of in-person early voting, which voting-rights advocates fear will effectively disqualify many poor voters of color, particularly the significant number of residents whose licenses are suspended due to debt.

Organizations in Ohio, including ​​the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans and Union Veterans Council, have filed a lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the state’s 88 county boards of elections to stop such provisions in the law.

Meanwhile, DeWine Press Secretary Dan Tierney has defended the measure, saying that it can protect immigrants from unwittingly casting illegal ballots. He noted that "while voter fraud cases are indeed rare, the overwhelming majority of such cases involve non-citizen voting."

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