Unexpected Complications for Families of Undocumented Immigrants

Unexpected Complications for Families of Undocumented Immigrants

The challenges faced by undocumented immigrants in Ohio and around the country are well known: the inability to work legally, predatory employers who pay below-minimum-wage rates to workers with few options, lack of access to public benefits, and more.

But, most assume that those limitations won’t extend to family members who are U.S. citizens, legal residents, or participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

A recent lawsuit filed against the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles spotlights the type of complications the children of undocumented immigrants can face—even if they’re in the U.S. legally themselves.

Minor Children of Undocumented Immigrants Can’t Get Driver’s Licenses

Most Ohio residents have little reason to think much about the requirement that a parent or guardian sign a teen driver’s application for a driver’s license, accepting responsibility for damages caused by the young driver.

However, if both of a teen’s parents are undocumented immigrants, or that teen is in the country with a single parent who is undocumented, there’s no one with the legal capacity to sign that guarantee.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the policy creates an obstacle for about 3,000 teens who would otherwise currently be eligible for learner’s permits, driver’s licenses, or state-issued identification cards in Ohio.

Obviously, the inability to obtain a driver’s license or state-issued identification can create significant roadblocks for teens, including difficulty in obtaining employment, pursuing educational opportunities, opening bank accounts, registering to vote and more. Some states that require a co-signer allow adults other than parents to take on that responsibility, while others allow undocumented parents to sign their minor children’s applications.

These handicaps aggravate other disadvantages children of undocumented immigrants already face.

Widespread Obstacles for Children of Undocumented Immigrants

Nationwide, about 18 million children live in immigrant families. About 88% of those children are U.S. citizens, and another 7% are legal residents. But, millions of these kids have at least one parent who is undocumented. About 200,000 of these children live in Ohio.

A report from the Migration Policy Institute shows that these children are less likely to be enrolled in pre-school and more likely to be isolated with caregivers who don’t speak English or have limited English skills.  Of course, these children face a host of additional practical and psychological issues when a parent is detained or deported.

Preparation is the Best Defense

The better educated immigrant parents and their children are about their rights and the potential obstacles they face, the better the opportunity to prepare for or circumvent roadblocks that could hold children back—even if those children are themselves legal residents or U.S. citizens.

Though it’s never too late to begin educating yourself about your rights and options, working with an experienced immigration attorney from the first application or petition creates the best opportunity to avoid unnecessary obstacles.

The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
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