TOLEDO, Ohio — Baldemar Velasquez, the president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and a leader in the Toledo immigrant community, expressed concern about a provision in Ohio's new voting law that requires noncitizens to be labeled as such on their driver's licenses.
The measure took effect on April 7, and if a noncitizen attempts to renew their license or obtain a license for the first time, there will be a label on the back of the license below the bar code that identifies the person as a "noncitizen."
"It contradicts the idea of people trying to operate in a community, live peacefully and be a good citizen," Velasquez said.
Those with green cards and VISAs, as well as international students and refugees, are allowed to obtain a driver's license but are not eligible to vote.
The new law requires anyone arriving at a polling station to produce a valid ID. Asked why Gov. Mike DeWine supports the addition of the "noncitizen" tag, spokesperson Dan Tierney provided the following statement:
"I can tell you from my experience at the attorney general's office that while voter fraud cases are indeed rare, the overwhelming majority of such cases involve noncitizen voting, sometimes even at the BMV through the motor-voter program; circumstances would then cascade when the application proceeds without catching that the applicant was a noncitizen, and the individual would eventually be sent a notice of their neighborhood polling place and be encouraged to cast a vote, leading some to do so and eventually being identified as an illegal noncitizen voter."
Velasquez said he doesn't believe it's a problem and that it's pointless to even try to make it an issue.
"I deal with a lot of undocumented people here and the vast majority of them want to be compliant with the law. They're afraid of not being compliant with the law," Velasquez said.
Velasquez added that having a label on an ID can needlessly expose a noncitizen to possible discrimination.
"When you think about law enforcement, I've known a few who have a chip on their shoulder and might say, 'oh, you're one of those,' particularly if they're brown or dark-skinned. Then that person raises an eyebrow, and all of a sudden, you have a tension there that doesn't need to be there," Velasquez said.
He also said it could get tricky for a noncitizen trying to rent an apartment. The landlord might discriminate against them, believing that they would have no intention of sticking around if they aren't a permanent citizen.