DMV To Resume License Crackdown – QNS.com

DMV To Resume License Crackdown

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will resume sending out thousands of letters threatening to suspend drivers licenses with mismatched names and social security numbers in November despite ongoing protests from elected officials and immigrant advocacy groups.
The DMV began cleaning out a backlog of 10 million unverified drivers licenses following September 11, after hijackers successfully boarded planes using drivers licenses acquired with fake documents. Last year, they sent out letters to over 600,000 New York residents whose drivers licenses had mismatched names and numbers or duplicated social security numbers. Over half responded. The rest will get letters sent out in upcoming weeks giving them 15 days to reply before their license is suspended.
The DMV argues the new system protects against fraud, child support shirkers, and terrorism. But opponents of the DMVs heightened vigilance argue the measures are more harmful than helpful.
For Claudia Vergolla, an immigrant from Colombia who asked that her real name not be used, the loss of her license has meant a significant reduction in her wages. When she and her husband went to renew their drivers licenses this year, the DMV told them the tax identification numbers they used to acquire the licenses initially were insufficient. But neither have social security numbers, so they were forced to let their licenses expire.
Vergolla had supplemented her salary as a part-time accountant by cleaning houses, and used her car to transport her supplies. She quit the cleaning job, but the family could not afford for Vergollas husband to quit his job in construction. He now drives without a license, but worries hell be caught.
"If he doesnt work, and I dont work, and we have a child, how do we survive?" asks Vergolla. "My husband still drives, because we have to live."
"People are afraid to get out on the road, and people dont know where to turn," said Assemblyman Jose Peralta, who opposes the DMVs heightened scrutiny of drivers licenses. According to Peralta, the DMV is unfairly targeting immigrants who need to drive for work. Peralta introduced a bill in the State Assembly this year that would take away the requirement to present a social security card when renewing an existing license. He also supports a bill by Assemblyman Fernando Ortiz that would allow drivers applying for new or renewed licenses to use tax identification numbers instead of social security numbers.
Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America, wants the DMV to issue special identifications called "Immigrant Drivers Permits" that would allow immigrants to drive, but could not be used for travel or personal identification. "We understand that you have to protect the security of the country, but what we ask is that immigrants who already have a license can continue to drive," said Mateo. Peralta and immigrant advocates like the New York Immigration Coalition have criticized Mateos proposal, however, saying it would create a second class of drivers who could face discrimination.
DMV spokesperson, Christine Burling, said they are reviewing Mateos proposal and other ways to help immigrants who need drivers licenses but dont have social security numbers.
Some critics of the DMVs measures say they may lead more immigrants who lose their licenses to buy false documents. Along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, clusters of men on each corner offer "socials" for prices ranging from $30 to $50. Drivers licenses can cost $80 or more.
Two vendors of fake IDs advertising their wares in whispers to passersby say they havent yet seen their business spike since the DMV started clearing out the verification backlog. Even if business starts going up, the two, who wouldnt reveal their names, said they expected the same type of clientele theyve had in the past, immigrants who need IDs for work. They scoffed at the idea of potential terrorists coming to them for false documents. "You think terrorists are going to come down here for their documents? They can pay millions of dollars for better ones," said one.
Vergolla said she would not resort to getting false documents, despite her familys financial difficulties since the loss of her license. "We live here and pay taxes," she said. "We dont have anything to hide. We just want a license to work peacefully."
E-mail this reporter at sarah@queenscourier.com .

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