Columbus -- Democratic lawmakers, a liberal advocacy group and representatives of Columbus-area ethnic groups called on state and federal officials Feb. 21 to support "common sense" law changes aimed at assisting immigrants wanting to become U.S. citizens.
The press conference at the Statehouse was part of a national campaign to draw attention to immigration policy.
At the federal level, advocates are calling for less "heavy handed immigration enforcement" and faster, fairer process for immigrants to earn permanent residency.
"It should take place within a reasonable timeframe," said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of Progress Ohio. "Immigrants rooted in this country should not have to wait decades to obtain citizenship. And we need fair immigration reform and smarter enforcement, including an end to troubling laws and policies that have eroded our individual rights and made our communities less secure and our job and work force less secure."
At the state level, two Democratic lawmakers said they will pursue allowing children of undocumented residents to attend college and changing driver's license policies.
"We want everyone to be included in all systems that we have to offer in the United States and here in the state of Ohio," said Sen. Charleta Tavares, from Columbus. "We need comprehensive immigration reform so that all of those who are working in our employment centers and our manufacturing centers and our fruit and vegetable and farming community and our education institutions to be fully incorporated as citizens."
Rep. Dan Ramos, a Democrat from Lorain, voiced concern about conflicting practices in place at the state's bureau of motor vehicles, with some immigrants holding Social Security cards unable to obtain driver's licenses.
"In some cases the driver's licenses are being granted, in some instances they're being denied," Ramos said. "I'm told recently some folks have been denied and then they show up with a lawyer and a reporter and some TV cameras … and in the light of public scrutiny, then they get their driver's license. That shouldn't be necessary."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.