San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia's application for a REAL ID was denied Thursday.
The police chief was born in Puerto Rico, which means he is a United States citizen. But because his birth certificate is an original from the U.S. territory, the DMV told him they couldn't process his application.
Garcia has been San Jose's top cop for four years, moving up the ranks from police officer. He is also a veteran, having served in the Army Reserves and the National Guard. Then came his trip Thursday to the DMV to apply for his REAL ID, and the chief was turned away.
"It was emotional for a while," Garcia said.
Garcia said denying his certificate felt like the DMV was denying his identity as an American-born citizen.
"Being turned away because, the inference I got, is that I wasn't American and not from the U.S., stung," he said.
After doing some research, the chief discovered the reason for his denial.
It turns out the Department of Homeland Security deemed all birth certificates from Puerto Rico invalid if they were certified before 2010. That's because of a massive fraud scandal on the island involving birth certificate.
Garcia said he had no idea about the scandal or the government action.
"The reason they don't accept it is for absolute valid reasons," Garcia said. "I understand that. It needs to be communicated better."
Garcia said nowhere in the application process does it explain the requirement. He is hoping for more clarity by the DMV so no other Puerto Rican will feel the same humiliation he felt Thursday.
The chief spent the afternoon applying online for a new birth certificate. He admits the gut punch he felt Thursday is a feeling he will carry forever.
Garcia said he will use his experience to make sure whenever there is a new policy, he meets and communicates with the communities affected by that new policy so no one is left in the dark.