Kenneth Caban Gonzalez has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Driver Services for allegedly treating Puerto Rican driver’s license applicants unfairly.
Caban Gonzalez, who was born in Puerto Rico, moved to Southeast Georgia in 2017 and applied for a driver’s license at the Department of Driver Services office in Hinesville. He said that the staff kept his Puerto Rico driver’s license, original birth certificate and Social Security card and the he would be informed when he should pick them up.
A few days later, a department employee sent Caban Gonzalez a text message, asking him to come to the department’s office in Savannah for an interview. When he got there, they accused him of providing false documents and arrested him. The criminal charges against him are still pending.
Caban Gonzalez received a new birth certificate and Social Security card from Puerto Rico in June 2018 and applied for a state identification card. It was issued to him in January 2019.
However, the Department of Driver Services still hasn’t issued him a driver’s license or explained why they believed the original documents he gave them were false. They also didn’t explain why his identification documents were enough to issue him a state identification card but not a driver’s license.
The lawsuit alleges that Puerto Rican applicants have to go through a much more stringent process to get a driver’s license than applicants from the mainland U.S. In addition to having to successfully pass written and road exams, Puerto Rican residents are required to answer questions about the island.
“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,” Southern Center attorney Gerry Weber said.