Lawsuit Claims Georgia Making Puerto Ricans Answer Bizarre Trivia Questions to Get a License

State News

Puerto Ricans are allegedly being subjected to illegal, baffling trivia questions to get their driver’s licenses in Georgia, with a lawsuit filed Tuesday claiming the state requires people from the U.S. territory to prove they are Puerto Rican by answering unusual questions.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a lawsuit filed against the state alleges the department takes too long to process licenses for people from Puerto Rico, holds the ID documents of Puerto Ricans for extended periods of time, and requires extra tests of Puerto Rican residents. The suit also alleges the state has asked odd trick questions about Puerto Rico that aren’t required of mainland applicants, including naming “what a meat filled with plantain fritter” is called and “the frog (that is) native only to PR.”

The suit, filed by LatinoJustice and the Southern Center for Human Rights, is representing Kenneth Caban Gonzalez, a Georgia resident born in Puerto Rico who applied for a state driver’s license in October 2017. The groups allege Caban Gonzalez submitted his Puerto Rico birth certificate, driver’s license, and Social Security card. Then, the state arrested him. From the paper:

The lawsuit says the department retained the driver’s license, birth certificate and Social Security card and told him he would be notified when he could pick them up. A few days later, he received a text from the department asking him to come to the Savannah office for an interview.
When he arrived, he was arrested on allegations that he had provided false documents. He was later charged in Liberty County Superior Court with one count of first-degree forgery and another of making false statements. Those charges are still pending.
Caban Gonzalez later obtained a new birth certificate and Social Security card and used them to obtain a state ID card in January. But the department still hasn’t issued him a driver’s license — making it hard for him to get a job, take his newborn daughter to the doctor and make other trips.
The lawsuit says the department has not explained why it believes Caban Gonzalez’s original documents are false. Nor has it explained why it provided an ID card but not a driver’s license.

Other out-of-state license applicants aren’t held to the same standard, the groups representing Caban Gonzalez argue in the suit.

“They’re treated as if they have to start from square one,” Atteeyah Hollie, another attorney with the Southern Center, told AJC. “That’s not the case for people who are moving from Alabama or Mississippi or a state on the U.S. mainland.”

Gerry Weber, an attorney with the Southern Center, told Time that the quiz directed at Puerto Rican driver’s license applicants resembles tests issued to black Americans attempting to register to vote, presumably the literacy tests issued in the early- and mid-1900s that disenfranchised black voters, with white Americans often exempt from such litmus tests.

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