An office that issues driver’s license services in Orlando, Florida, felt they had too large an influx of customers. So they came up with a solution that was totally wrong.
The administration of the Orange County Tax Collector’s office received complaints that the parking lot of the Lee Vista office was teeming with so many cars that they were being towed. Their solutions included opening their office an hour earlier, changing the venue for the written test, telling customers to visit offices at other locations if the lines were too long and requesting nearby business not call towing companies.
Quite reasonable solutions, right? That is until they introduced another measure to curb high number of customers: The office began turning away non U.S. citizens including permanent, legal residents.
If this isn’t discriminatory profiling, what is?
The tax collector’s office states only that at some specific locations “driver license services are restricted to U.S. citizens only.”
The policy first came to light when Huffington Post discovered a Redditor complaining about a friend who was refused service because she wasn’t a citizen, despite the fact she has a green card.
According to Eddie Ayala, the spokesman for the county tax office said providing service to this group can be “complicated” and “very time-consuming too, especially if we have to get on the phone with any federal agencies to verify certain kinds of documents.”
“We’d have the tow truck drivers kind of staking out the parking lot every day and yanking our customers left and right. It’s super inconvenient for them,” he added in defense of the new measure.
However, the change means even lawful residents have to travel at least 12 miles to the other driver’s license service location. Before the policy was enforced, more than 250 non-citizens visited the site weekly for their transactions. However, now the number has fallen to just around 35, said Ayala.
It seems the new regulation is working but at what cost to the immigrants?
Ayala also stated the office make exceptions if the customer is unable to go to another office.
Predictably the new measure isn’t sitting well with human rights activists.
Jennifer Chang Newell from the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project said the new policy “raises troubling concerns under both the Equal Protection Clause and federal civil rights law.”
Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, director of membership and organizing for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, called the policy “horrific” and said “it puts the burden on the individual to fight for their equal treatment under the law.”
However, Ayala thinks calling it discriminatory is “offensive.” The spokesman said exceptions are made for people who are unable to travel to different office locations and said it is not meant to target “a specific class of people.”
If that is so, why don’t they implement a first-come, first-served rule to all customers rather than refusing to cater to immigrants only?
And Florida is not the only state that has such discriminatory practices.
In South Carolina, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles said only one-third of the state’s 67 branches cater to international customers, which include green card holders.
However, in California, all 173 DMV offices not only process lawful permanent residents but also accept driver’s license applications for undocumented immigrants as well.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson