Kenneth Cabán Gonzalez has settled his lawsuit with the state of Georgia, allowing him to get a driver’s license there.
When Gonzalez tried to get a Georgia driver’s license in 2017, officials accused him of submitting fraudulent documents. He was arrested and charged with fraud and forgery felonies while his identification documents were withheld. The charges were dropped later once it was discovered his Puerto Rican birth certificate was authentic.
“I want to provide for my family. I want to do what I came to Georgia to do,” Gonzalez said during an interview at his lawyers’ office. “I came to Georgia for a better future for me and for my family.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations determined that Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services, “-went to unusual lengths to combat fraud, compared with other states.”
The department previously required Puerto Rican citizens to go through an interview process to get a driver’s license. The quizzes that were a part of this process and featured such questions as to, identify what Puerto Ricans call an orange and the non-existent beach in an inland city, will now be eliminated.
“I am forever thankful to my family for supporting me and helping me get to and from work while I was waiting for a decision in this case,” Gonalez said.
“We appreciate DDS’s efforts to end discriminatory policies that treated Puerto Rican applicants like second-class citizens. We trust that these reforms will bring relief and hope to Georgia’s growing Puerto Rican community,” Southern Center attorney, Atteeyah Hollie, said in a statement.
Kira Romero-Craft, the managing attorney of LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s southeast office, said that environmental and economic struggles of the island have forced citizens to move to the mainland.
“Driving is a vital component of life in Georgia and as a result of our client’s bravery in seeking equal treatment for himself and fellow Puerto Ricans residing in Georgia, we have been able to take a significant step in equalizing the experience of Puerto Ricans to that of their fellow mainland-born, U.S. citizens,” she said.
The state of Georgia has also agreed to pay Gonzalez a $100,000 settlement.