DMV denies license renewal to Salvadorans with TPS

Salvadorans applying for their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) extension are once again having problems renewing their driver's licenses.

In California, a man who filed his TPS re-registration electronically early to avoid delays and problems has been unable to avoid them due to illegal acts of discrimination by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Edenilson Antonio Flores Salazar, who lives in Los Angeles, applied two months ago - exactly 3 days after the application period opened. He received a receipt from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicating that his re-registration application was being processed. In addition, he gave his biometric data to USCIS.

Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ordered the automatic extension of work permits for Salvadorans with TPS, the DMV denied Edenilson's renewal - three times.

Edenilson went to two different branches, last Friday and Monday. I accompanied him on Tuesday, March 10, but despite going with an attorney, Los Angeles DMV officials refused to renew his license.

We talked to two different supervisors, but they did not accept the documentation issued by DHS which clearly demonstrates that Edenilson's work permit was automatically extended until September 9, 2015, and is indeed valid according to the federal government.

One of the supervisors, Mr. Edward Gardner, said that those documents were not valid for the DMV. They would only accept a new work permit. Mr. Gardner is wrong.

I asked him to call DMV headquarters for legal advice. Mr. Gardner called the DMV's Legal Affairs Section and they referred him to the DMV's Lawful Presence Verification Office. This office instructed Mr. Gardner not to renew Edenilson's driver's license because his documents were not valid, even though they were.

Unfortunately, different departments of the DMV, who should be looking out for the integrity of the system to serve drivers with legal rights to obtain their license, are not well informed, do not know the law, are not complying with the law and do not care about the discomfort they are causing to thousands of people who need their driver's licenses.

The bureaucracy, ineptitude and unwillingness is frustrating. We will not give up and will continue to help Edenilson for free to get his driver's license renewed by the DMV.

I was also contacted yesterday by a person in Utah to let me know that a group of approximately 100 Salvadorans are having the same problem - the state DMV is refusing to renew their licenses.

What outrages me is that this problem is repeated every time the TPS extension is announced.

In 2010, I helped several people in California, Missouri and North Carolina obtain their driver's licenses after they were denied. I had to intervene by writing a letter to DMV management in California and contacting the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Civil Rights.

On that occasion, the DMV also denied Susy Alvarez 3 times the renewal of her license. But after sending my letter and accompanying her, we were able to get them to change their position and she received her new license.

In 2012, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) denied driver's license renewals to Hondurans with TPS. I contacted the BMV's top officials and attorney to inform them that they were discriminating against drivers with TPS, and that their actions constituted illegal behavior.

Fortunately, they corrected the error and apologized.

Salvadorans have been protected by TPS since 2001. Hondurans and Nicaraguans since 1999. At this point, this mistake should no longer be made. There should be a more efficient system so that the different government agencies are better informed about the law and thus avoid discriminating against hundreds of thousands of people who need this important document.

I thank the reporter Oswaldo Borraez and Univision 34 in Los Angeles for the following report on the DMV problem and Edenilson's case: