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Undocumented parents sharing fears of taking kids to school without government IDs

Undocumented parents share fears of taking kids to school without government IDs.{ } (WSYX/WTTE)
Undocumented parents share fears of taking kids to school without government IDs. (WSYX/WTTE)
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Living in the shadows, certain Columbus parents say they're afraid to go to their kids' schools and play a part in their own children's education.

"I had to leave my parents in Mexico," one Spanish-speaking mother told Scoring Our Schools after she crossed the border illegally more than ten years ago. She said she did it to escape violence. Another undocumented mother from El Salvador said she crossed the border when she was pregnant through Arizona.

"If there are jobs, it's not a lot of money," ABC 6 News Investigator Jesse Pagan translated. "It's $4 a day. So, she came here pregnant and her son was born here."

Now in Columbus, both moms limit their daily lives due to no government-issued identification and fears of being deported. That's after one mom told Scoring Our Schools her son is being bullied. The other said her child also suffers has a learning disability. All of their children are US citizens.

"She said she would love to be more involved and engaged at her kids' school," Pagan translated. "She, personally, wants to ask questions and wants to know what the kids are learning."

One group is pushing for a municipal ID program to help these undocumented parents.

"There are tens of thousands of Columbus residents who don't have ID," said Ed Hoffman with One ID Columbus. "They're forced to live in the shadows. They're forced to really be hidden."

One ID Columbus is pushing for the city to create the program for the estimated 100,000 city citizens with no valid ID and an estimated 25,000 to 45,000 undocumented immigrants who also live in Columbus. In existing programs across the country, applicants can provide foreign licenses, passports and third party testimonial to prove residency. They do not have to prove citizenship. In some programs, all copies of the records required are then destroyed.

"We don't have to solve the entire immigration process to have a sense that this could benefit the residents of Columbus," Hoffman said.

In a unanimous vote in 2018, Columbus City Council spent $10,000 of taxpayer money to study the idea. The study was released last year. No council member has brought it up since.

"We've been disappointed that this study hasn't been talked about at council or shared," Hoffman said. "(It's) really a disgrace."

So, Scoring Our Schools contacted City Hall to ask about the $10,000 study. The communications department for City Hall continued to refer us to Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano who no longer sits on city council. Scoring Our Schools then showed up to City Hall before Monday's city council meeting. Council President Pro Temp Elizabeth Brown who voted for the study avoided our questions.

Council member Mitchell Brown said he voted to spend the $10,000 to support his colleague, Michael Stinziano, who then sat on council with him.

"I thought it was worthwhile to have a study to determine what our position should be," Brown said. But months after the 56-page study was released, Brown admits he has yet to review it.

"We're a little busy with other issues," Brown said. "I'm sure once we get a chance to spend some time and get into detail about it, you'll hear more about it."

Scoring Our Schools did read the report which lists start up costs at more than $500,000. It would require another $300,000 to $400,000 a year to maintain. By phone, City Hall staff said those costs are too high for the few people the program would benefit so city council will not be pursuing a program.

One ID Columbus said they would return to city council to request an official response to the $10,000 study of the municipal ID program. Now county auditor, Michael Stinziano's office said he does not have the power or authority to start a program there. However, he said he gives city council his support on any efforts they may take.

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More Scoring Our Schools stories can be found online here.

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