Federal changes prevent Micronesians in Hawaii from getting a driver's license
Hoping to make it easier for Pacific Islanders, U.S. Congress made changes to the Real ID Act. Instead, it created a road block.
Hoping to make it easier for Pacific Islanders, U.S. Congress made changes to the Real ID Act. Instead, it created a road block. The 2005 version of the act did not include immigration status and it forced many immigrants from the Pacific Islands to renew their ids and licenses every year.
Charity Joel tried to renew her driver's license last week. After she stood in line for two hours, she was told she couldn't
"I was like is there anything else I can do because I have all these documents, even my I-94. She said no, I'm really sorry but I cannot do anything about it," Joel said.
Now, getting around is a challenge.
"I take the bus. I would drive to the shop but now I can’t because I know I will be breaking the law, driving without my license... I feel like I’m handicapped without my license," she said.
The reason why she can't get her license involves changes to the Real ID Act. It was intended to give immigrants the chance to apply for an eight year drivers license instead of yearly.
But the Department of Homeland Security's interpretation is preventing citizens from three Micronesian nations from getting one at all.
"We were shocked and disappointed that there’s one more barrier added onto this," Josie Howard, We Are Oceania, said.
Non-profit We are Oceania, a program of Partners In Development Foundation, is a resource for Micronesians in Hawaii. It says it received more inquiries since the act went into effect.
One organization it's working with is non-profit American Civil Liberties Union.
"There’s a lot of work to do to clarify the situation. A lot of team members are working on different levels," Howard said.
"They’re supposed to be treated like everyone else and they’re supposed to be able to get a driver’s license like everyone else," Josh Wisch, ACLU Hawaii executive director, said.
Wisch wants state officials to take action to help those in need.
The other form of identification Pacific Islanders can use is an "Employment Authorization Document" card. An information session Friday will help them apply for one. The event is at 720 North King Street from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.