Latino Group Sues to Stop State From Canceling Vehicle Registrations

Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, November 24, 2009

A Latino group is asking a judge to prevent state officials from canceling the registrations of more than 40,000 vehicles apparently driven by undocumented immigrants.

The League of United Latin American Citizens filed the lawsuit against state officials in Franklin County Common Pleas Court this morning.

The legal action comes two weeks before the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles plans to revoke the potentially fraudulently obtained license plates of those who cannot provide proof of legal U.S. residency.

The lawsuit, which seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from canceling registrations effective Dec. 8, claims the move is an illegal state foray into immigration matters, which are a federal responsibility. A hearing on the requested injunction is set for Dec. 1

Lawyers were met with applause from a largely Latino crowd of 200 people late this morning as they provided details of the lawsuit at Downtown’s Trinity Episcopal Church.

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Dennis Muchnicki, a Dublin immigration lawyer who filed the lawsuit bankrolled by hundreds of donations from Ohio’s Latino community, accused the state of “bureaucratic whim and caprice” that will harm thousands of families.

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On Oct. 8, the BMV mailed 47,457 letters informing vehicle owners that their registrations would be canceled unless they provide a valid Ohio driver license or identification card or proof of a Social Security number.

As of last week, 2,245 people had visited BMV offices and provided proof of legal U.S. residency.

The state crackdown came after The Dispatch revealed that a loophole in Ohio law allowed thousands of undocumented workers to register vehicles even though many did not have valid Social Security numbers or vehicle insurance.

The immigrants hired “runners” with legal U.S. residency to register their cars with falsified power-of-attorney forms that did not require verification of the identity of vehicle owners. The forms only required Social Security numbers, which state officials could not verify.

The state enacted a policy on Aug. 24 requiring runners to provide the driver’s license or state ID numbers or proof of Social Security numbers of people for whom they are registering vehicles.

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