Puerto Rico adding 'USA' to its driver's licenses to help traveling citizens

Puerto Rico adding 'USA' to its driver's licenses to help traveling citizens

Puerto Rico is not considered a state under current law, though you might disagree with that situation, depending on where you fall on the political spectrum. The existence of the U.S. territory is news to some, as it seems there is confusion around whether Puerto Ricans are American citizens. (Hint: They are.) Officials on the island hope to alleviate some of the hassles their residents experience on the mainland with a new “USA” logo on Puerto Rico driver’s licenses.

Puerto Ricans, despite not living in a “state,” have the same birthright citizenship that people born on the mainland do, though a video from earlier this year illustrates the difficulties many islanders have when traveling. Humberto Marchand recorded his experience at a Hertz rental car counter, where he was denied a car because the employee was confused about Puerto Rico’s status.

The island’s secretary of transportation, Eileen Velez Vega, and her department worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on a plan to change residents’ driver’s licenses to say “Puerto Rico USA.”

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time Puerto Rico has Americanized its driver’s licenses, though earlier attempts didn’t yield the desired result. Older licenses had the American flag printed on top, but people still reported not being able to use them to buy alcohol or fly without a passport. Though they’re United States citizens, Puerto Ricans don’t pay federal income tax but do pay local taxes, and there are limitations on their representation in Congress. Many feel the island should become the 51st state, but the question is so politically charged that it doesn’t make it past the brutal initial arguments.

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Ultimately, the licenses won’t do much to fix ignorance, and anyone looking to cause a fight over “foreigners” is going to do so with or without “USA” printed on the license. That said, many feel these licenses are a step in the right direction that could help make life easier for thousands of Puerto Rico residents.