Ongoing Problems with the BMV Procedures

By: Margie Davis / Freelance Journalist

SOUTH BEND — When Juana Watson, the governor’s senior advisor for Latino affairs and immigrant issues agreed to meet with the local Hispanic community in South

Bend on Feb. 12, she may have expected something quite different from what occurred.

Watson, along with Dennis Rosebrough, representing the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, were subjected to a barrage of questions and appeals for help from the nearly 150 people packed into the West Side Democratic Club.

Several speakers appealed directly to Watson, asking if she could intercede in some way. Watson several times explained that she functions only in an advisory capacity to the governor, that she is not a lawyer, that she only came to listen and report back.

Although her title might lead one to believe that she has some authority in the area of immigrant issues, Watson repeatedly reminded her listeners that those concerns have to be resolved at the federal level, that she could neither change or fix anything. She encouraged those in the room to contact their legislators.

Attorneys Lee O’Connor and Rudy Monterrosa provided more substantial information.

“In this country,” O’Connor said, “if you have a license or you receive something from the government, it can’t be taken away without an administrative hearing. It’s basic. It’s not permitted under the Constitution. There is no law claiming that names have to correspond exactly.”

He encouraged those in the crowd with a grievance not to seek help at the individual level but rather to become part of a class action lawsuit against the BMV.

Monterrosa agreed. “Revocation of your license without a hearing is not legal,” he told them.

The specific issue of concern was the Nov. 6 letter from the BMV stating that those in its database whose information did not match the Social Security

Administration’s records must resolve those discrepancies within 30 days or risk losing their driving privileges. The discrepancies focused on Social Security numbers and names.

South Bend resident Cristina Gomez admitted that those who fake social security numbers have caused problems for everyone else. “I have a real social security number,” she said, “but I am still required to prove my legal permanency.” That is something she says she has been awaiting for 16 years.

Gomez asked Rosebrough about rumors that insurance providers would drop those who lost their licenses as a result of the BMV letter. He said that was a matter to be decided between the individual and the insurance company.

After Rosebrough stated that social security numbers were not needed to renew license plates, several persons spoke about the problems they had encountered trying to do just that.

Jose J. Perez pointed out that prior to the BMV letter, many people had sent in money to renew their licenses. The licenses were not renewed and the money was not returned.

Rosebrough suggested they should speak to a branch manager who would certainly correct the problem. A number of persons attested that this had not been successful.

“We tell them the law,” Perez said, “and they say no.”

Rosebrough provided the group with a number to a call center in Indianapolis, claiming that its “trained staff” could resolve any problem. He also agreed to speak after the meeting with those whose money had not been refunded.

Another problem had to do with what would happen to titled property of those who lost their licenses.

Gomez said that rumors were causing people to panic and frantically sell their belongings.

Rosebrough tried to calm these fears, assuring the crowd that the BMV was not interested in confiscating anyone’s property. “This is about security and identification,” he said.

Ramon Ruvalcaba, moderator and interpreter, challenged that statement. He had received a letter, he said, questioning his name. Although he was able to show proof of his identity as well as of a valid social security number, he was told he also had to show proof of his legal status.

“So is it security or identity?” he demanded.

Likewise Gerardo Uribe, who had a letter from the Social Security Administration verifying his name.

That letter, several years old, cut no ice with the BMV now.

Another audience member spoke of going to the South Bend office of the BMV to get a new driver’s license after her divorce and remarriage. This led to her being asked to show a resident card.

Rosebrough seemed taken aback. “What would trigger them asking for that?” he asked.

“A Spanish surname,” someone shouted, to laughter and applause.

Not addressing any of these issues directly, Rosebrough suggested that the BMV website should be consulted.

As the event drew to a close, Ruben Hernandez spoke passionately about the hardships the BMV is imposing as well as the government’s lack of foresight in allowing an atmosphere of fear and panic take hold.

“Están provocando caos!” he cried.

Members of radio station hosted the event

WSBL-L.P.. Eliud Villanueva, Ramon Ruvalcaba, and Rosa Hinojo served as interpreters. • This is the telephone number provided by the BMV Official. • Call Center in Indianapolis • 317-233-6000