Policy, New Problem
By Chaleampon Ritthichai
Immigrant groups gathered last month in front of the New York
Department of Motors Vehicles to protest what they believe as another
crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
Following 31 other states, the department this year began crosschecking
drivers’ social security numbers with information at the
Social Security Administration. In March it sent out letters to
112,000 New Yorkers asking them to come in and explain why their
social security numbers did not match. If they don't report within
15 days, they risk having their licenses suspended.
“We have found that somebody's Social Security number was
used 57 times,” state Motor Vehicles Commissioner Raymond
Martinez told the Associated Press.
It is common for many undocumented
immigrants to use fake social
security numbers to apply for driver’s licenses, according
to New York Immigration Coalition.
Under a 1995 federal law, a Social
Security number has been required to obtain a driver's license.
But until a year ago, applicants
in New York would have to provide only proof of birth and several
forms of identification, such as utility bills. Now they must also
bring proper documents to prove their immigration status.
trip to renew his license, Brian Kan, a Malaysian immigrant, was
turned down because he couldn’t prove that he is here
on working visa. “ I didn’t know that I have to bring
all these documents."
Officials have said the recent implementation
is an effort to clean up the database system, which is crucial
to national security --
15 of 19 terrorists in the 9/11 attacks had a total of 63 drivers
According to the Department of Motors Vehicles, an estimated
300,000 immigrants are likely to lose their licenses. While insisting
the new policy is not targeting immigrants, Martinez said the people
who used fake immigration documents are subject to arrest and the
agency will be notified.
Brother Joel Magallan, the executive director
of Asociacion Tepeyac, a Mexican labor and human rights organization,
has admitted that
many members of his organization received driver license by using
fake social security cards. “They have received the letter
and nobody wants to go there and see what happened,” he told
the New York Sun.
“I don’t know what to do,” said a Chinese immigrant
van driver who also got his license with fake social security number. “I
might have to change my job.”
While immigrants are figuring
out what to do next, immigrant groups and supporters are fighting
Felix W. Ortiz, a State Assemblymember from the
51st district in Brooklyn and State Assemblymember Philio Ramos
a bill that would allow immigrants in New York to use a tax identification
instead of social security number to apply for driver’s license.
The Bill was referred to the transportation committee in January.
Meanwhile, many immigrant rights advocates now fear that some
immigrants will go on driving without a license nor insurance.
“I need my van to bring food here every day,” a Honduran
immigrant who has a mobile lunch station in Corona, Queens told
a Bengali newspaper. “ I have no choice but to drive. This
is my living. I don’t care if I have an ID or not.”
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