Immigration Law Watchdog Group Asks Inspector General to Investigate Illegal Lobbying by Ohio Latino

Press Releases

June 16, 2010

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has filed a complaint with theOhio Inspector General against theOhio Commission on Hispanic Latino Affairs (OCHLA). The complaint, filed on behalf of eightOhio citizens alleges that OCHLA violated Ohio law by actively lobbying the state legislature to provide favorable treatment for illegal aliens and ignore their unlawful immigration status.

OCHLA is an Ohio state agency created in 1977 to advise the Governor, General Assembly and other state agencies on the needs of Spanish-speaking citizens, especially in the fields of “education, employment, energy, health, housing, welfare and recreation.” OCHLA also works to improve access for Spanish speakers to the state legislature and local governments in Ohio. As a state agency, OCHLA is required to carry out its taxpayer-funded mandate in a strictly non-partisan and lawful manner.

“There is enough information to reasonably believe that a violation has occurred. We urge the Ohio Inspector General to launch a full investigation on behalf of the taxpayers,” said Trista Chaney, the IRLI staff attorney who assisted the citizens to prepare the complaint.

In their complaint, the citizens identify multiple occasions where OCHLA commissioners allegedly engaged in unauthorized lobbying on behalf of illegal aliens. Lobbying Activity Center reports for 2009 show that OCHLA Public Policy Director Florentina Staigers did not engage in any advocacy on behalf of Spanish-speaking citizens that year, but instead repeatedly lobbied on behalf of illegal alien causes. The complaint also identifies February 2010 testimony by Lupe Williams, an OCHLA board member, which contained no advice for the General Assembly on how proposed legislation would affect Spanish-speaking citizens, but instead urged lawmakers to show illegal aliens special consideration.

According to the citizens, OCHLA’s 2010 Latino Community Report on Global Diversity for the 128th General Assembly contains various false or distorted statements, such as “being in the U.S. without papers is not a crime,” which the citizens contend were intended to persuade legislators to ignore federal immigration laws and provide illegal aliens the public benefits and privileges available to Spanish-speaking citizens.

In a statement explaining why she approached IRLI for assistance in preparing the complaint, grassroots immigration activist, Julie Aldrich said: “As citizens opposed to state encouragement of illegal immigration, we just got fed up with seeing taxpayer-funded lobbyists from OCHLA showing up at hearings and issuing statements that undermine the rule of law in our state.”

The Office of the Inspector General is currently reviewing the complaint and will decide whether to take action with a full investigation into the alleged violations.The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) is a Washington DC-based public interest law group that assists citizens to take legal action to fight the problems of illegal immigration at the state and local levels.

For further information about the complaint, please contract IRLI at [email protected] or 202-232-5590.

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