CT's Drive-Only License Program Already Hitting Some Bumps In The Road


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Bill Sarno

The state’s new Drive-Only License program, which is seen as a plus for undocumented immigrants and has been well received in the Latino community, has not debuted without a few questions, including some about the process for getting required identification documents translated into English.
However, Latinos can at least take comfort that one of their own, former state Sen. Andres Ayala of Bridgeport, will be looking into any issues regarding the new service as the new Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner.
After only a couple of busy days on his new job, Ayala said he had a sense that the Drive-Only Program, which began processing applications Jan. 2, was going “pretty well,” and he would be meeting shortly with the people implementing the program to review its progress.
“You can rest assured we will be looking at any issues such as the translators,” said Ayalas, who said he wants all residents to experience a modern, efficient DMV.
In working closely with the Hispanic community, Yanil Teron, director of the Center for Latino Progress in Hartford, has encountered several problems for those people seeking the Drive-Only licenses.
For one thing, she expressed concern that DMV will only accept certified translations produced by approved translators, and there are only a finite number of  these that can be used. She noted that there are Latinos and other immigrants who can produce accurate translations.
Currently, six businesses and two individuals are on the DMV approved list, with most located in the Hartford area and in one case, in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. None are located near Bridgeport, Stamford or New Haven, where many of the undocumented immigrants are located.
Bill Seymour, DMV spokesman, said the translator matter is currently under review.
There are other issues the Center for Latino Progress has encountered and is trying to address, mostly through education.
Teron said people have found the type of document DMV will accept to be confusing, particularly since a birth certificate is not a valid document but baptismal certificates are.
The learner’s permit test, which is given in Spanish or English, has proven daunting for some people. She said the center is helping people work with the practice questions, which are in Spanish in the manual. She also has translated a longer practice test that the DMV has posted online in English.
The eight-hour safe driving practices course that DMV says should be taken before the road test also has raised some red flags. Teron said the state should watch how these classes, which are given for $150 by commercial schools, are conducted. She said one Latino told her the class only ran two hours and consisted of watching a movie that was in English.
The center also found it had to help some applicants set up email addresses and learn to use the Internet. The DMV only accepts Drive-Only applications online.
Access to the Internet may mitigate the concern about the location of the translator services, but does not resolve issues such as waiting until the last minute to get documents translated.
One of the approved translators, Maria Jose Pastor of Middlebury, explained that clients can fax copies or email PDFs of the documents to her. She charges by what in her field is called the targeted word and must translate every word or number on the documents for DMV.
Finding her work in great demand since Drive-Only started, Pastor has translated documents for people throughout the state, notably Torrington, Danbury, Stamford, New Haven and Bridgeport.
The translation does not take long, she said, but that is only part of the process affecting turn-around time. The DMV requires translators to provide certification of her work in a particular format and that includes a signed original. This means she will have to mail this material to the immigrant or they can pick it up in Middlebury, she said.
The key, she said, is not to wait until a last minute. She suggests that as soon as a DMV appointment for the learner’s permit test is set, the applicant should contact a translator.
As to why certain translators were put on the DMV approved list, she said the state may have initially chosen those with whom it had worked previously
Pastor, who was born in Spain and formally trained as a translator, has been in this field full time since 1999 and has translated material for state agencies such as the Department of Children and Families and the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.
One thing is fairly certain, with tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants likely to apply for Drive-Only licenses, the approved translators can expect to be busy for quite awhile.
Pastor recently took some time off and came home to find about 40 messages asking about her services.