DDS takes birth certificate, now apologizes - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

DDS takes birth certificate, now apologizes

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – A tug of war Friday over a Lee County teenager's birth certificate. He's Puerto Rican and the Department of Driver's Services says the majority of Puerto Rican birth certificates are used fraudulently.

So when he presented his to get a driver's license, they took it, and kept it. It is an internal policy the department of driver's services that results in Puerto Rican birth certificates being confiscated. The DDS say there is evidence that 60% of birth certificates that they see from Puerto Rico are being used fraudulently and that they take the original certificate away from anyone applying for a first time license to be investigated.

Born in New Jersey, Nilda Patton is of Puerto Rican decent and that's where she was when her son was born 17 years ago, and so his birth certificate is from Puerto Rico. For Patton, that's never been a major problem, until earlier this week.

She said, "After he took his test, they were going to give him his permit, that's when they said, 'oh by the way, we have to retain this document'."

That document was his original birth certificate, not a copy. Patton and her son were told it was being sent to the fraud unit to be investigated. Her husband says they haven't clearly been able to explain why.

He said, "What policy do you have, what procedure, what executive directive have you been given that allows you to discriminate against Puerto Rican citizens? They couldn't provide me an answer."

We went with the Pattons Friday as they tried to get the birth certificate back, but they were told it had been sent off in the mail to a different office. We then listened in on a phone call to the fraud unit as an investigator told them that confiscating all Puerto Rican birth certificates was standard policy.

"For me, it really is discrimination against all Puerto Ricans," said Nilda Patton.

And if an emergency took place, Nilda Patton worries she would not have all the documents she needs.  She said, "If something happens to my son, I don't have no way to prove that he's my son. That's the only document that lets a mother prove that that is her son."

But for now, her son is without a license, and without his own birth certificate.

Before noon on Friday, Mrs. Patton received a call from Allen Watson, who is the director of driver services for the state of Georgia.

He apologized that her son's birth certificate was confiscated and said it should not have been.

It is now in the mail on the way back to their Lee County home, along with his driver's permit. Driver's services say this is a big learning experience for their department.

To crack down on fraud, all Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1st will soon become invalid and new ones will be required.

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