BMV letter over driver’s license data worries immigrants

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ recent letter notifying 206,000 Hoosiers that information on their driver’s licenses doesn’t match a government database has left some immigrants fearful that they’ll lose their licenses.

Heart and Hands, a Plymouth nonprofit that helps Latinos and immigrants, has been “bombarded” by callers worried about losing their licenses, said Director Rebecca Griffy.

Those fears are real because any recipient of the BMV letter who cannot resolve the mismatched data issues will have their licensed revoked.

Griffy said undocumented residents often use false Social Security numbers. She said that if they lose their license it could hurt the economy by keeping people from working and shopping.

“Now we have a bunch of people who are not going to be able to drive,” she said.

The BMV scanned records of all of its driver’s licenses and ID cards and found 3 percent, or 206,000, didn’t match a Social Security database, said BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough.

There were numbers, names, genders and birth dates that were off. Some could have happened by an innocent mistake or when someone married and changed names, Rosebrough said.

Letters went out in November. Although the letters don’t say it, people have until Jan. 31 to resolve the mismatches, Rosebrough said. He said a follow-up letter will point that out.

On Jan. 31, he said, licenses will be revoked if the individuals haven’t offered proof to correct the information.

On Nov. 7, the BMV also started checking the Social Security database to verify the information of anyone applying for a license, ID card, permit or title.

The letter recipients can fix their data by going to a BMV branch, visiting the BMV’s Web site or sending a form in the mail. These options worked for 70 percent of those who tried it, Rosebrough said. The other 30 percent needed to give more information.

Griffy said she can’t help but feel that the BMV is targeting immigrants.

The Rev. Christopher Cox, pastor of St. Adalbert Parish in South Bend, which offers Spanish Masses and helps people with the letters every day, agrees. He calls it an “unnecessary burden on people,” partly because the letters are written only in English.

About 24 percent of the letters went to people who had no Social Security number on file, Rosebrough said.

He said there was a period before 2001 when you could gain a license in Indiana without giving a Social Security number.

Indiana is now the 48th state to use a system to directly check its data with the Social Security Administration.

But Rosebrough said this isn’t prompted by the REAL ID Act, a federal law that will, in general, require driver’s licenses to match Social Security information. The specific regulations have yet to be issued, but that law could go into effect next year.

“This is not in response to any regulations that are being promulgated or proposed by the feds,” he said.

(From the South Bend Tribune)