Indiana BMV Gets Involved in Immigration Enforcement

In Elkhart County, Indiana, employees at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles are being instructed to call police if they have doubts about documents that cross their counters. Police and prosecutors will respond with arrests and felony charges, as warranted.

The new policy comes after months of publicity about lax security and fraud at BMV branches in Indiana. Under a statewide BMV policy that started March 15, the local focus is on foreign nationals. The BMV will work with federal immigration officials to determine the validity of all immigration documents presented as identification at license branches. The comparison of the presented documents with official ones will happen in Indianapolis, where a BMV office will have access to a federal immigration database.

Pending verification, local license branches will issue 60-day driving permits to applicants. Applicants whose documents fail the immigration check will be notified by mail and given the chance to pursue an administrative appeal.

Immigration advocates are questioning the motives of the BMV, and the focus on foreign nationals has raised concerns among many immigrant groups. Some advocate groups have said that the whole community, not just immigrants, will be negatively affected if immigrants who live and work in this area feel forced to drive without licenses or insurance. Advocates are also questioning the BMV’s participation in immigration enforcement, beyond its traditional focus on motoring.

BMV officials maintain that they cannot issue driver’s licenses to people who cannot prove their legal right to be here, especially since driver’s licenses serve as fundamental identity documents.