Thousands may lose licenses

By JOSEPH DITS • Tribune Staff Writer

(Summary)

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles says it will revoke the driver’s licenses of up to 56,000 people across the state in coming weeks.

The whole effort — a comparison of the BMV’s 6.4 million records with those of Social Security — had raised fears by illegal immigrants that they could be deported or lose their cars or homes.

But the mismatch letters hit a lot of lifelong citizens, too. The BMV will do another check of its database with Social Security’s to ensure accuracy next week.

Then it will send letters to those who’ve had their licenses and ID cards revoked. It will simultaneously mark the licenses as revoked in the computer database that police use, BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said.

What will this mean to people who continue driving after their licenses are revoked — particularly in a routine traffic stop by police?

For now, it seems local police departments and prosecutors will continue to have the discretion to charge and penalize as they see fit. A motorist could go to jail or just receive a ticket, depending on how state laws are interpreted.

Consider: It’s a Class C misdemeanor to drive a car if you’ve never in your life had a license. (Indiana Code 9-24-18-1) Police can send you to jail for that or just give you a ticket and fine.

On the other hand, it’s an infraction — worth just a ticket and fine — if you are caught with a license that’s been revoked or suspended. (Indiana Code 9-24-19-1) But it can turn into a misdemeanor if you’ve had prior violations.

Several law enforcement agencies still are trying to sort out whether they’ll approach the newly revoked licenses in a specific way, said 1st Sgt. Brian Olehy, a spokesman with the Indiana State Police.

In Elkhart and St. Joseph county jails, officials regularly send a list of all foreign-born inmates to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (at ICE’s request), Elkhart County police spokesman Trevor Wendzonka said. ICE files paperwork to hold inmates in the jail for 48 hours. If ICE doesn’t come within that time to pick up the inmate, the person may be let go, Wendzonka said.

“We do not do street-level immigration enforcement at our department,” he said, echoing what police chiefs in Elkhart and Goshen say.

McCloughen suggests that people could learn from the Amish, many of whom pile into vans and share rides to factory jobs.

But it could soon become a misdemeanor to transport an illegal immigrant — or a felony if it is the second offense or involves more than five illegal aliens. That’s part of Senate Bill 335 that passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

Titles and insurance

Illegal immigrants have worried about what will happen to the vehicles and trailer homes they had bought and titled in their names. If people have to scramble and return to their home countries, could they sell these off? The short answer is yes.

Rosebrough said the BMV will put a “stop” on the titles of vehicles and trailers on which BMV owner’s records didn’t match Social Security. The title still will belong to the owner, but that person won’t be able to change it. However, in a recent clarification he got from the BMV’s policy director, Rosebrough said the owner will be able to transfer the title to a person whose records match Social Security.

Without a title, it becomes more difficult to get an insurance payment in case of an accident