By Richard Stradling
Raleigh News & Observer
RALEIGH N.C. – Two Latino groups went to court this
week to try to block new rules that would make it harder for
Mexican immigrants to get driver licenses and state-issued
Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens has scheduled
a hearing this morning on the groups' request.
To avoid crowds at Division of Motor Vehicles offices, motorists
can log on to www.dmv.dot.state.nc.us/
In a suit filed Thursday, the groups claim the Division
of Motor Vehicles violated state law when it decided to stop
accepting Mexican identification cards, among some other forms
of ID, starting this week.
"We're challenging the process," said Ivan Parra,
executive director of the Latino Community Development Center
in Durham. "That's one thing as immigrants that we love
about this country: that there's democracy and an opportunity
to be heard."
Parra's group and The Latino Community Credit Union of Durham
brought the suit on behalf of their 23,000 members. The suit
seeks to delay the rules until the state allows the public
to comment on them.
DMV Commissioner George Tatum said the state stands by the
way it issued the rules. Tatum said state law gives him the
authority to determine what forms of ID can be used to obtain
a license and that the Attorney General's Office told him
public hearings were not necessary.
"They felt we were on solid legal ground to move forward,"
The rules aim to prevent criminals and possibly terrorists
from using fake documents to get licenses or ID cards from
the DMV. Starting Monday, several forms of ID, including birth
certificates from countries other than the United States or
Canada, will no longer be accepted.
The change that has packed DMV offices statewide would bar
the use of Mexican voting cards as well as the "matricula
consular," ID cards issued by Mexican consulates that
are often carried by illegal immigrants. With a deadline looming
today, immigrants have been lining up hours before dawn in
hopes of getting in.
Esmeralda Terrones, a child-care worker in Siler City, arrived
at the Cary DMV office at 6 a.m. Thursday and found she was
112th in line. Terrones, 27, who holds a driver license from
her native Mexico, waited six hours to get a state-issued
ID card. She was certain she would have had to wait longer
in Siler City.
The crush has created long waits. Mac Farrior of Raleigh
stood outside two hours Thursday morning before he was ushered
into the DMV office on Avent Ferry Road to renew his license.
Farrior, who turns 35 today, didn't want to risk letting his
"This is very, very inconvenient," he said.
Tatum said DMV anticipated long lines this month but decided
the rules were necessary to help prevent identification theft
and keep unsafe drivers off the road.
But Parra said the rules might put more unsafe drivers on
the road by forcing immigrants to drive without licenses or
insurance. He said the state is better off making it easy
for immigrants to take a driver test.
"These new regulations push a big segment of the immigrant
community further underground," he said.
The lawsuit does not directly contest the merits of the
DMV's new rules. The groups say they will make a case for
changing them if the judge orders public hearings.
John Herrera, president of the Latino Community Credit Union,
said the matricula issued by the Mexican consulate is difficult
to falsify and should be accepted by the state. As for other
forms of ID from Mexico, Herrera said he would want to see
some evidence that they pose a security risk – the kind
of evidence that would be presented at public hearings.
Herrera and Parra said the rules have caused unnecessary
chaos and confusion at DMV offices. But they said they waited
until the final days of the month to file suit because they
hoped to persuade state officials to delay the rules without
going to court.
"The legal suit is a last resort," Herrera said.
"We tried diplomacy first."