At a Statehouse news conference held last Wednesday, July 17, a broad coalition of community groups representing the Latino community rallied in their opposition to a new policy recently adopted by the Indiana State Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Individuals present represented organizations such as the Mexican Alliance, Indiana Legal Services, La Casa of Goshen, Latino Resources, Inc. and Una Nacion, and called on the BMV to scrap its new license identification requirements. Saying that the new rules are too restrictive and unfair to some immigrants, the coalition wants new guidelines developed with public input.
Michelle Guiterrez, an attorney for the Hispanic Law Center of Indiana Legal Services
The new policy, which was created in response to security and terrorist concerns, requires certain documents for people obtaining driver"s licenses, including a "primary document," such as a valid foreign passport or a specific document from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Under the current guidelines, the BMV may deny licenses to classes of people who the INS has granted permission to reside and work here, such as spouses and children of U.S. citizens waiting for green cards, battered spouses of U.S citizens who have been granted permission to stay in the country or people born in other countries whose parents are U.S. citizens. Michelle Guiterrez, an attorney for the Hispanic Law Center of Indiana Legal Services, conducted the press conference. "Since a driver"s license is so essential for Hoosiers" livelihoods and their daily lives," Guiterrez said, "we are sorely disappointed BMV officials failed to seek public comment in developing this new rule. By short-circuiting the process, the BMV may have actually increased the risk to Hoosiers" physical security and financial damage rather than reducing it." Another conference participant, Ildefonso Cabajal, president of the Mexican Alliance, said, "Immigrants who no longer qualify for a license are here to stay and will continue to drive no matter what," thereby increasing the possibility of more unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road. Guiterrez thinks the BMV may have overstepped its bounds in making the new rules and crossed into the authority of the Indiana General Assembly. She said that the Latino coalition may consider a lawsuit but would first like to meet with officials from the BMV and "Get them to start from scratch and allow all of us stakeholders an opportunity to offer our perspective." When later reached by phone and asked to respond to the coalition"s concerns, BMV Commissioner Gerald B. Coleman told NUVO that he feels the policy "is objective and applies equally to everyone and doesn"t single out any one group." In regard to any changes in the policy he says, "We are open to adjustment." With regard to meeting with representatives from the Latino groups, Coleman said he is willing to hear their concerns.