Kenneth Cabán, a Puerto Rico-born U.S. citizen living in Georgia, had his identity documents taken over 600 days ago by the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services. Cabán just wanted to apply for a state-issued driver’s license.
Now, with the help of national civil rights group LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Cabán is suing Driver’s Services in Georgia, according to NBC News.
LatinoJustice stepped in to help Cabán after it learned that he is not the first one to face this type of harassment. The Driver’s Services in Georgia has been regularly seizing identity documents presented by Puerto Ricans who came into their offices to get a state driver’s license, including birth certificates and social security cards.
“Imagine going to a new state and being treated less than a human,” Jorge Vasquez, associate counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, told NBC News. “Imagine being told: ‘We’re going to keep your paperwork …’ Now you are stuck in a new place with no way to start a life.”
The Georgia agency has also allegedly been questioning Puerto Ricans about the island territory and “flagging them for fraud review” if they don’t answer every question correctly, according to the lawsuit. Some of the questions Puerto Ricans have been asked include the name of a meat-filled plantain fritter, the name of the frog that is native to Puerto Rico and the meaning of colloquial terms such as “pegao.”
Georgia Driver’s Services also added trick questions such as the name of a nonexistent beach and how long is a nonexistent train ride between San Juan and Fajardo.
“The so-called quiz, applied to Puerto Rican drivers, bears a strikingly disturbing resemblance to the tests applied by segregationists to block voter registration of people of color,” Gerry Weber, senior attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, who is working on the case alongside LatinoJustice, told NBC News.