Puerto Rico has made a change to its driver’s license. To help Puerto Ricans when they’re traveling, officials in the U.S. territory have decided to add “USA” to all licenses.
In 2017, a poll found that 46 percent of Americans didn’t know that people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. This might explain why Puerto Ricans are being denied services when proof of residence needs to be provided.
In a recent example of this, an employee at a Hertz car rental in New Orleans told a Puerto Rican customer that he could not rent a reserved vehicle because he did not have his passport. The employee was apparently unaware that the man’s Puerto Rican driver’s license was all he needed to rent a car.
When Eileen Vélez Vega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of transportation and public works, saw the video, she was frustrated. “I was shocked about how much lack of education, lack of knowledge was out there,” Vélez Vega told The New York Times. “I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
In another example, an airline employee denied a Puerto Rican family from flying home because he thought they needed to show passports.
Vélez Vega and her department worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this past summer to find a solution to minimize issues for Puerto Ricans when they are traveling in the mainland U.S.
Roberto Cruz, an attorney with LatinoJustice, said that while he considers it “unfortunate” that driver’s licenses had to be changed, “if it is helpful for Puerto Ricans to get decent treatment and the services they deserve, then we support it.”