State Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus) last week provided sponsor testimony on House Bill 538, legislation to require cultural competency training for all deputy registrars and their employees in the state. The new training program, which will include education on the proper evaluation of documentation for obtaining a driver’s license, will help prevent legal immigrants from being improperly denied when applying for a driver’s license or state ID.
“With the immigrant and refugee population rapidly growing in the nation and in Ohio, we must be equipped to give these citizens the tools to prosper in our state,” said Boyce. “Unfortunately, I’ve heard many stories from my constituents of instances in which Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) workers were unable to recognize varied forms of government identification and end up denying legal immigrant applicants – or worse, calling the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on them. Requiring cultural competency training for BMV workers will help prevent confusion and will assist in successfully integrating New Americans into our community.”
According to the American Immigration Council, Franklin County is home to roughly a quarter of Ohio’s foreign-born population, including the more than 45,000 Somali Americans who help make central Ohio the second-largest Somali community in the country. In 2010, 6.7 percent of all business owners in Ohio were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Rep. Boyce last week also hosted the first ever New American Forum, a daylong event at Franklin University aimed at bringing together residents, community leaders, business owners, state agencies and elected officials for a dialogue about how to empower and engage Ohio’s foreign-born residents. The well-attended forum included panel discussions on topics such as housing and civil rights, small business and workforce development, human trafficking, and language access in education and the justice system.
House Bill 538 is currently under consideration in the House Armed Services, Veterans Affairs & Public Safety Committee.