News10NBC investigates: Federal rules for enhanced licenses deny another American citizen

July 04, 2019 06:34 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) -- Happy Fourth of July. This is the 243rd birthday of this country. There are 329 million citizens in the United States. But this week, News10NBC is finding that some of them have a hard time proving it.  

They're trying to apply for an enhanced license so they have the right proof to get on a domestic flight next year. They go to the DMV with a stack of documents and they're told their documents are not good enough. 


That's what happened to Chris Tatner in February. He says when he went to the DMV to get his enhanced license. He brought a baptismal certificate, his certificate of birth, his orders from when he joined the Army and four old passports including his very first which says in writing, "Douglas Christopher Tatner is a citizen of the United States." 
But because Tatner was born in Saudi Arabia where is father worked for an oil company, he says the DMV denied his application.

"[They] told me because I did not have a state of birth, because I was born outside of the country, they could not process a REAL license," Tatner said.

The same sort of thing happened to Ron Davis. He's Native American and has lived in Hilton his whole life. But he was born on the Six Nations reserve in Ontario, Canada, and Homeland Security does not accept his tribal documents for an enhanced license.  

"I belong in Canada?" Davis asked News10NBC while we talked at his kitchen table. "Or do I belong here?"

When Davis, who is retired from Kodak, went to the DMV in Greece last summer he took his driver's license, his Social Security card, his band (Indian) card and his Six Nations Quantum Blood letter which, based on a treaty signed in 1794, says he enjoys dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. Tribal documents are not on the Homeland Security list of acceptable forms of identification for enhanced licenses or REAL IDs.

After our story with Davis, we talked with Congressman Joe Morelle, who represents him. Morelle says he and his staff have talked to the departments of Indian Affairs, State and Homeland Security.  
Rep. Joe Morelle, (D) 25th Congressional District: "This is not, if you think about it, not dissimilar from the argument that is being made about children who have been brought from other countries to the United States at one or two years old and lived their whole life, served in the United States military go to our schools but aren't allowed to be citizens." 

According to the Census in 2010, 22 percent of the population just in New York was born outside the United States. News10NBC asked Chris Tatner if he thought he's the only one. 

"Oh no. I seriously doubt that," he said. "I know for a fact I'm not the only one out there."

You need an enhanced license or REAL ID to get on a domestic flight starting October 2020. 

To get one you need: 

  • U.S. passport, which will get you on a flight. 
  • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship.
  • U.S. birth certificate.
  • U.S. consular report of birth abroad.
  • Foreign passport.
  • Permanent resident card.
  • Employment Authorization Document.

Click here for information on how to get an enhanced license or REAL ID


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