United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
Kimberly A. Jolson Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted
filed by Defendant Charles L. Norman, Registrar
("Registrar") of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
("BMV") (ECF No. 25), Plaintiffs' Memorandum in
Opposition (ECF No. 29), and Defendant's Reply (ECF No.
30). For the reasons that follow, the Court
DENIES Defendant's Motion.
action, a putative class of 16- and 17-year old Ohio
residents, most of whom were born in the United States and
are citizens, allege that a policy of the BMV Registrar
denies them drivers' licenses and/or state identification
cards based upon the immigration status of their parents.
Obtaining a temporary instruction permit at age 15 and then a
driver's license at age 16 is a familiar rite of passage
for teenagers across Ohio. It is also a step to gaining
independence, supporting oneself and assisting one's
family financially, and attending school and extracurricular
activities. However, thousands of non-citizen and
U.S.-citizen minors across Ohio who are otherwise eligible to
obtain these licenses are unable to do so because of the
national origin and immigration status of their parents.
The BMV has enacted a discriminatory policy that requires a
parent or guardian to prove lawful immigration status in
order to co-sign for the minor child if the parent is not a
U.S. citizen. When a parent or legal guardian cannot provide
such documentation, BMV policy prohibits any other adult from
serving as a cosigner. This policy denies or delays the
issuance of driver's licenses and identification cards to
otherwise-eligible individuals solely on the basis of a
minor's parents' alienage and national origin and,
consequently, violates those minors" right to equal
protection of the laws. Plaintiffs and putative class members
seek injunctive and declaratory relief against Defendant and
the cessation of this discriminatory policy.
(Pis' Mem. in Opp. at 1-2, ECF No. 29.)
assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of
the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution.
Relevant Statutes, Regulations, and Policies
4507 of the Ohio Revised Code establishes the requirements
for the issuance of driver's licenses to Ohio residents.
Ohio requires a driver's license applicant to be eighteen
years of age or older, except that a person who is at least
sixteen years of age and has held a temporary instruction
permit identification card for a period of at least six
months may apply for and receive a probationary license. Ohio
Rev. Code § 4507.071(A). Pursuant to BMV regulations,
all applicants for a license or a temporary permit must
present documents sufficient to show five elements: the
person's "(1) Full legal name; (2) Date of birth;
(3) Social security number; (4) Street address of the
person's principal residence in the state of Ohio; and
(5) Status as a citizen, permanent resident, or temporary
resident of the United States." Ohio Adm. Code §
4501-1-1-21(C). These are the same five requirements of the
REAL ID Act, a federal statute that sets minimum standards
for state driver's licenses and identification cards to
be accepted for official purposes. Pub. L. No. 109-13 §
202(c)(2)(B); 119 Stat. 313; (49 U.S.C. § 30301 codified
as note); 6 C.F.R. § 37.11.
the fifth element, commonly referred to by the BMV as
"legal presence," applicants must establish legal
presence in the United States by submitting "original
and valid" United States Citizenship and Immigration
Services ("USCIS") documents "showing the
dates of legal presence." Ohio Adm. Code §
4501:1-1-21 (G)(6). The acceptable identification documents
required by the Ohio Administrative Code are the same for a
temporary instruction permit as for a driver's license.
See Id. § 4501:1 -1 -21 (A).
issue at the heart of this lawsuit is embodied in §
4507.07(A) of the Ohio Revised Code, which provides that for
any minor under eighteen years of age to receive a
probationary license, the minor's application must be
"signed by one of the minor's parents, the
minor's guardian, another person having custody of the
applicant, or, if there is no parent or guardian, a
responsible person who is willing to assume the obligation
imposed under this section." Ohio Rev. Code §
4507.07(A). The co-signer "shall present identification
establishing that the adult is the individual whose signature
appears on the application." Id. The Revised
Code further provides that "the [BMV] registrar shall
prescribe, by rule, the types of identification that are
suitable for" this purpose. Id. Co-signers are
required by regulation to present this identification when
co-signing an application for either a temporary instruction
permit or a driver's license. See Ohio Adm. Code
Revised Code and the Administrative Code are silent on the
question of what documents a co-signer (as opposed to an
applicant) must present to the Deputy Registrar in order to
"establish that the adult is the individual whose
signature appears on the application." Ohio Rev. Code
§ 4507.07(A). The BMV Driver Manual has implemented a
policy in this regard, requiring that a co-signer
"present proof of identity by presenting an Ohio
credential or proof of the five elements. If the co-signer is
not an Ohio resident, an out-of-state credential and proof of
SSN is acceptable as proof of identity." Driver Manual
(Rev. 11/6/2018), ECF No. 23-2, PageID 267. The five elements
from the Ohio Administrative Code and the REAL ID Act are set
forth above, the fifth of which is the "legal
presence" element. Ohio Adm. Code § 4501-1-1-21(C).
Revised Code and Administrative Code are also silent on the
question of when Deputy Registrars may consider there to be
"no parent or guardian," and thus allow another
"responsible person" to co-sign. Ohio Rev. Code
§ 4507.07(A). The BMV has interpreted the policy to
allow only a parent or legal guardian to be the co-signer
unless the minor is emancipated. Driver Manual, ECF No. 23-2,
PageID 268 ("A co-signer must be asked if he or she is a
legal parent or guardian of the applicant but is not required
to provide documentation proving the relationship or
Revised Code §§ 4507.50 and 4507.51 govern the
issuance of state identification cards. An identification
card is not valid for the purpose of operating a motor
vehicle, and there is no age requirement to obtain one.
Id. at § 4507.52(A). The Revised Code requires
that, like a temporary instruction permit or a driver's
license application, a minor applicant for an identification
card have a co-signer. Id. § 4507.51(A)(1).
See also Driver Manual, Doc. 23-2, PageID 267
("Co-signer Requirements for all types of Ohio
Credentials"). Plaintiffs aver that, "[a]lthough
the BMV policy regarding required USCIS documents for
non-citizen co-signers is laid out only in the Drivers
Manual, in a letter to Plaintiffs' counsel dated October
2, 2017, Defendant stated: 'the BMV applies the same
identification requirements to Ohio driver's licenses,
commercial driver's licenses, temporary instruction
permits, and state identification (ID) cards....'"
(Am. Compl. ¶ 45, Ex. 3.) Defendant agrees that the BMV
policy requires the same identification to obtain a state
identification card as is required to obtain a driver's
permit. Therefore, the BMV co-signer policy applies to minors
who apply for state identification cards and to those who
apply for driver's licenses.
has stipulated that if the allegations in the Amended
Complaint are true, under current BMV policy minor Plaintiffs
K.I.A., A.M., and J.G.R. all meet the BMV's "legal
presence" requirement. (Statement of Stipulated Facts,
ECF No. 23 ¶ 12.) With that stipulation, the parties
agree that each minor Plaintiffs only obstacle to obtaining a
temporary instruction permit, driver's license, or state
identification card is an inability to obtain a
include: 1) K.I.A., A.M., and J.G.R., who are Ohio residents
who by virtue of their ages (16 and 17) are eligible to apply
for a temporary permit identification card and, after
satisfying driver's education requirements and passing a
driving test, a driver's license; 2) the three sole
custodial parents of each of the three minors, who by virtue
of their immigration status, cannot co-sign for their
children's driver's license applications; and 3)
organizational plaintiff Intercommunity Justice And Peace
Center ("UPC"), a Cincinnati-based nonprofit
organization with a mission of promoting immigrant rights,
developing leadership ability in its members (who include
immigrant youth and the U.S.-citizen children of immigrants),
and counteracting discrimination against its members. Am.
Compl., ¶¶ 6-16, ECF No. 11.
a seventeen-year-old U.S. citizen and resident of Toledo.
Id. at ¶ 61. He lives with his mother and sole
custodial parent, Maria Monjaraz, who is a citizen of Mexico.
Id. at ¶¶ 61-62. In April 2017, when he
was fifteen-and-a-half years old, A.M. applied for an Ohio
temporary instruction permit identification card at a BMV
Deputy Registrar in Oregon, Ohio. Id. at ¶ 63.
A.M.'s mother, Ms. Monjaraz, accompanied him to serve as
his co-signer and presented a valid Mexican consular
identification card to the Deputy Registrar staff as proof of
her identity. Id. at ¶¶ 64-65. BMV Deputy
Registrar staff denied A.M.'s application for a temporary
instruction permit because Ms. Monjaraz did not have a valid
Ohio identification card or USCIS documents showing lawful
immigration status, which she does not possess. Id.
at ¶ 68.
Ocampo, a U.S.-citizen friend of Ms. Monjaraz, also
accompanied the family to the Deputy Registrar to attempt to
serve as a co-signer, but Deputy Registrar staff refused to
allow her to co-sign because she is not A.M.'s parent or
legal guardian. Id. at ¶ 69.
Plaintiff K.I. A.
is a sixteen-year-old U.S. citizen and resident of Cincinnati
and a member of Plaintiff UPC and its Youth Educating Society
("YES") program. Id. at ¶¶ 70,
79. She lives with her mother and sole custodial parent,
Maria Cabrera, a citizen of Mexico. Id. at
¶¶ 70-71. Before K.I.A. was eligible for a
temporary permit, Ms. Cabrera had encountered the BMV's
cosigner policy because KJA.'s older sister, Esther, who
is now 18 years old and has been a U.S. citizen since birth,
tried to obtain a temporary permit at the Deputy Registrar in
Sharonville, Ohio. Id. at ¶¶ 71-72. When
Esther and Ms. Cabrera went to the Deputy Registrar so that
Esther could apply for a temporary permit, Ms. Cabrera
presented a valid Mexican passport and valid Mexican consular
identity card, but the Deputy Registrar rejected the
documents. Id. at ¶ 74. Ms. Cabrera could not
present a valid Ohio driver's license or USCIS documents
because she lacks lawful immigration status. Id.
Accordingly, she never attempted to take K.I.A. to a Deputy
Registrar to apply for a temporary permit because she knew
that pursuant to BMV policy K.I.A. could not obtain a
temporary permit or a license while she was a minor.
Id. at ¶ 78.