Puerto Rican man without passport denied rental car: ‘It shows a lack of training’
KENNER, La. (WVUE/Gray News) - A Puerto Rican man says he was wrongly denied a rental car at a Louisiana airport even though he had proper identification.
Marchand said he had a late-night flight from Puerto Rico into New Orleans on May 9. He planned to pick up the rental car, find a late dinner and bring his son some food when he got off work.
Marchand, a Loyola University New Orleans 1990 graduate, was in town to move his son out of his apartment after the Loyola school year ended.
He said the situation started when he went to the Hertz rental desk for Gold Members at the Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Marchand thought he needed to show the Hertz attendant his Puerto Rican identification and credit card. But despite preparing ahead of time and presenting the ID, the staff denied him the rental car because he didn’t have a physical passport.
“I kept trying to talk to her to see if she would reconsider her position,” Marchand said. “It is a valid ID. It is a prepaid reservation. But for whatever reason, that they were going to require [a passport] because my license is from Puerto Rico.”
Marchand eventually took out his iPhone and started recording the staff at the Hertz desk as he said he was frustrated that he could not have his rental car without a passport despite being a United States citizen.
Puerto Rico has been a free commonwealth of the U.S. for more than a hundred years. Marchand and many other Puerto Ricans don’t travel with passports to the mainland U.S. because it’s not required.
“It’s a valid ID in the United States,” Marchand can reportedly be heard telling the Hertz staff in his iPhone video. “It’s a valid license, like the same as Louisiana, Florida, Texas, whatever state.”
In the video, the Hertz attendant is heard asking Marchand to stop recording and to leave the desk. But Marchand continues, explaining that his Puerto Rican license is as legal as any other U.S. identification.
Eventually, the Hertz attendant contacted law enforcement after she and Marchand continued arguing.
Marchand, a retired federal probation officer with 25 years of experience, said he thought the officer would help sort out the situation.
WVUE reports that body camera footage was obtained from the Kenner Police Department showing an officer responding to the reported disturbance call around midnight.
“We have a policy here where if you are going to rent with an out-of-state license, you have to have your passport,” the Hertz attendant can reportedly be heard telling the officer in the video.
Marchand is then heard explaining that Puerto Rico is a part of the U.S. and that his license meets the Hertz rental criteria.
Captain Michael Cunningham, a spokesperson for Kenner police, said the officer was only at the scene to respond to the disturbance call.
WVUE reports the body camera footage does not show the officer confirming or denying that Marchand’s Puerto Rican identification was valid. But shows the officer explaining to Marchand to call Hertz’s cooperate office for a refund.
Marchand said he hoped the officer would have understood the situation more.
And after four minutes of being at the scene, the officer tells Marchand to leave.
‘It shows a lack of training because a law enforcement officer checking an individual’s ID should be able to tell this is a valid driver’s license,” Marchand said.
According to Marchand, he was shocked at the lack of knowledge about Puerto Rican IDs and being singled out for traveling without a passport.
“I feel like a second-class citizen because there are 3.1 million U.S. citizens that live in Puerto Rico. Why do we have to go through this level of scrutiny in 2023?” he said.
The civil rights group Latino Justice said cases like Marchand’s are common, mainly due to ignorance.
“Through the airports, we are usually stopped and asked for identification. I have experienced being stopped in what has been called a random search,” Roberto Cruz, managing attorney for the southeast regional office, said. “People in the United States don’t really know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.”
Marchand said he has not filed a complaint against the Kenner police officer, but the police captain said he could if he would like, and that would launch an investigation.
A Hertz spokesperson said Marchand will be getting refunded and the company does accept Puerto Rican driver’s licenses without a passport.
“Hertz accepts Puerto Rican driver’s licenses from our customers renting in the U.S. without requiring a valid passport. We sincerely regret that our policy was not followed and have apologized to Mr. Marchand and refunded his rental,” the company said in a statement.
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