Police body camera footage shows Puerto Rican man denied rental car for not having a passport
After late-night connecting flights from Puerto Rico into New Orleans, Humberto Marchand wanted to pick up his 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.
Around 11:30 p.m. on May 9, he went to the Hertz rental desk for Gold Members at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, expecting to check in and go on his way simply. He pre-paid for the car when he made the reservation back in April.
He thought he needed to show the Hertz attendant his Puerto Rican ID and credit card. But despite preparing ahead of time, he wasn’t ready for the staff to deny 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. You have the information on file and there was no warning to me, 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, frustrated that he could not have his rental car without a passport despite being a U.S. 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 United States because it’s not required.
“It’s a valid ID in the United States,” Marchand told 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, trying to explain that his Puerto Rican license is as legal as any other U.S. ID.
In a statement, Hertz says they accept Puerto Rican driver’s licenses without a passport and that their policy was not followed during Marchand’s visit, The statement says:
“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. We are reinforcing our policies with employees to ensure that they are understood and followed consistently across our locations.”
Eventually, the Hertz attendant calls on law enforcement after she and Marchand continue arguing over his ID. Being a retired federal probation officer with 25 years of experience, Marchand thought the officer would help sort out the situation.
“A police officer and I know this by training and experience based on my career, was in a position as an arbiter to at least confirm that that was a valid ID,” he said. “Especially my license, since it was a REAL ID.”
Body camera footage obtained by FOX 8 shows the Kenner Police officer who responded to the Hertz attendant’s disturbance call nine minutes before midnight.
The attendant tells the officer in the video, “We have a policy here where if you are going to rent with an out-of-state license, you have to have your passport.”
Marchand is then heard explaining that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and that his license meets the Hertz rental criteria.
Captain Michael Cunningham, spokesperson for Kenner Police, says the officer was only at the scene to respond to the disturbance call. The body camera footage does not show the officer confirming or denying that Marchand’s Puerto Rican ID was valid. The video shows the officer explaining to Marchand to call Hertz’s cooperate office for a refund.
Marchand says he hoped the officer would have understood the situation more.
The body camera footage shows the officer saying to Marchand, “Maybe you can understand the words coming out of my mouth a little more clear for the third time, if they say you need a passport, and you don’t have, and they say you need a passport to rent a car, what is your problem?”
And after four minutes of being at the scene, the officer tells Marchand to leave.
The body camera footage shows the officer saying to Marchand, “It is midnight. This is ridiculous. We are not going to do this crap anymore. You can find your way out the parking garage or the second or third floor to try to rent a car. We are not going to sit here any longer.”
And as he was leaving, Marchand thought he heard the officer threaten to call immigration officials if he didn’t leave.
But the body camera shows the officer did not say that.
“Do not come back up here and cause any more disturbances,” the officer said.
In the body camera video, Marchand asks, “You’re going to call what? Border services?”
When he discovered that the video proved the officer did not comment on immigration enforcement, Marchand said he was glad.
“It shows the officer didn’t order those words, and that’s great. Still, I think he was indifferent to me, and 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,” he said.
Of the tens of thousands of travelers that come in and out of the airport, Marchand says 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. I feel, why do we have to go through this level of scrutiny in 2023,” he said.
Unfortunately, the civil rights group Latino Justice says 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, that we have representation in Congress, and that we can travel freely.”
Marchand says he has not filed a complaint against the Kenner Police officer, but Cunningham says he could do so if he would like, and that would launch an investigation.
A Hertz spokesperson says Marchand will be refunded in full after the incident, and that the attendant who called the police has been reminded of the company’s Puerto Rican driver’s license policy.