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November 18, 2017

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Lost in translation: Immigration advocates raise issues with regulations for driver’s authorization cards


Steve Marcus

People outside the East Sahara Avenue Department of Motor Vehicles office.

The establishment of a Nevada driver’s authorization card, mainly for use by immigrants in the country illegally, is wrapped up in debate over who will translate required documents and concerns the Department of Motor Vehicles will unwittingly create a fertile field for fraud.

In a public meeting that was held simultaneously in Carson City, Las Vegas and Elko via video connection, several people told the DMV administration, who attended from Carson City, that they worry rules regarding the translation of documents are overly burdensome and language on the cards could lead to profiling.

“There are predatory people who will charge a ridiculous amount of money for translation. I don’t believe the concept and scheme you all are progressing now is necessary,” State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores said from the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas, arguing that the immigrant community is prone to scammers who take advantage of people who need help filling out government documents.

During the 2013 session, the Nevada legislature approved a driver’s authorization card for those who cannot sufficiently prove their identity to meet the requirements for a driver’s license, which can be used for federal purposes. To obtain a Nevada driver’s license, proof of identity — such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or current immigration documents — must be presented. Consular identification cards issued by foreign governments, foreign birth certificates and border crossing cards are not valid forms of identification for a license. Under the new law, applicants who were born outside the United States may show a foreign passport, birth certificate or consular identification card to obtain a Nevada driver’s authorization card.

The program closely mirrors a similar driver’s privilege card offered in Utah. The Nevada DMV has estimated that 60,000 people will apply for the cards, which must be renewed annually, and they will collect an additional $250,000 per year in revenue.

The DMV, in writing the specific rules to implement the law, wants approved translators to do all translation of documents in a foreign language, such as birth certificates.

The DMV will not regulate translators but will provide a list of approved translators that have been certified by a company, school, religious organization or government agency.

“There is a buyer beware component, and it’s the applicant’s responsibility to shop around (for translators),” Nevada DMV Services Manager Jude Hurin said from Carson City. “It’s like buying a car, or anything else. There is personal accountability and responsibility to do your research.”

Several advocates from the immigrant community testified that many people can translate their own documents, and in a lot of cases, bilingual DMV employees — including more than a dozen new employees hired specifically to take on the application volume — could also do the translation.

“Without regulation (of translators), people are going to be scammed left and right,” said Astrid Silva of the Nevada Immigrant Coalition.

The DMV argues that the regulations governing the translation of foreign documents are necessary to combat fraudulent applications, even if the translation is little more than dates, names and places.

“Some say it's overkill, but we see the rules for translation as closing some of the doors for possible fraud,” Hurin said, emphasizing that they are following the Utah model.

Translators and interpreters who testified in Las Vegas from the Grant Sawyer State Building agreed with the DMV.

“It’s important to maintain accountability and standards in the process,” said Christina Sanchez, a member of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association. “When you are working with official documents, translation requires confidentiality and impartiality for the benefit of the applicant and the DMV. Using translators without the proper training and abilities leaves a lot of room for error.”

Ivan Espinosa, who testified from Elko, said translators may be easy to find in populated areas such as Washoe and Clark counties, but in rural Nevada, finding a translator can be a serious burden and the proposed rule is “ridiculous.”

The cards must also, under federal law, carry some language indicating that it is not to be used as official identification, such as for applying for federal benefits or to board an airplane.

The Nevada DMV plans to print “not valid for identification” on the card; some who testified suggested alternative language such as “not valid for official federal purposes.”

Julieta Marquez, testifying from Carson City, said she worried that the rules would undermine the intent of the law — to make roads safer with more licensed and insured drivers and perhaps stimulate business.

“This is an opportunity for people to come forward and show that they want to respect the law,” Marquez said. “If you put so many burdens on it, I feel people will not come forward and they will stay in the shadows. This is supposed to help the economy, but if people are uncomfortable applying, we won’t see the results.”

Maria, who attended in Las Vegas and did not want to give her full name because she is residing in the country illegally, said she paid to register her car in Nevada and pays for insurance. She drives without a license because she needs to for her work as a cook and housekeeper. Maria, who has lived in Nevada for 25 years, has gotten tickets for driving without a license.

“Having a car is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for me and many others. You can get insurance if you have a Mexican driver’s license, but the police don’t accept it. So Nevada will take the money to register your car and you can get insurance, but then you can’t have a license. I want to apply for the driver’s authorization card, but not if it has some seal on it indicating I’m undocumented,” she said to a reporter. “There are many good, conscientious police officers, but some are racist and they will pull you over and look for a reason to arrest you and get you deported.”

DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said the DMV administration will decide if changes to the regulations need to be made, and then the rules will be presented to a legislative commission that must sign off on the final parameters for implementation. The DMV hopes to get the regulations in front of the commission by Oct. 22, and the program would start as soon as approved.

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