On May 5th, 2021, I went to the DMV to renew my driver's license. A driver's license is often taken for granted, but that small document makes a difference for those who constantly drive in fear because of the consequences of getting stopped due to their lack of documents.
The day I went to the DMV, I saw so many members of our undocumented community come in extra early, with stacks of documents inside their folders. Some of them were nervous; others were excited. I translated for a few of them as it's always my pleasure to do so. The only Hispanic worker at the office was giving our undocumented Hispanic members a hard time. She purposely would talk to them in English, knowing they didn't understand.
After watching fellow immigrant workers like me struggling to get their licenses, I knew I had to step up and help my community. So, I began offering help for anyone that needed assistance making their appointments, needed a documented translation, or needed help organizing their paperwork. I created templates for different documents translations like birth certificates, passports, foreign driver's licenses, foreign marriage certificates, etc. I grew a community in the process and the people I helped spread the word around.
During my driver's license outreach, I kept hearing similar complaints from a lot of people. There were no appointments available, and members were sent home because their translated documents weren't notarized. So, I created a spreadsheet where I put all the information I needed to make appointments for our members. I knew appointments were up at midnight, so I would stay up or set my alarm to be up and make appointments. Sometimes the appointments weren't up until 2 am, 4 am, 5 am, or not at all.
The MVC is supposed to accept translated documents if the translators are over 18 and provide all of their contact information and signature, but having the document notarized isn't required. Unfortunately, some offices are still giving our members a hard time because they don't have their translated documents notarized. Some members were being overcharged for notarized documents with prices ranging from $50-$500. I was not going to let that keep happening, so I became a Notary. As a notary, I can assist fellow immigrant workers as long as I don't notarize stuff that I translated or prepared. By being a notary, I'm not only notarizing a signature but also giving our members that closure and ease they needed after other public notary abused them.
If you are part of the immigrant community in New Jersey and have questions about applying for a driver's license, visit our website: www.cata-farmworkers.org/licenciasnj or you can stop by our office at 66 Atlantic St. Bridgeton, NJ, every Monday from 1 pm to 8 pm, or make an appointment at our office at 4 S. Delsea Dr. Glassboro, NJ, by calling us at 856 -881-2507.⠀⠀