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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Hertz apologizes after US citizen from Puerto Rico is denied car rental

Humberto Marchand told a Hertz car rental counter employee that she was “denying a U.S. citizen” his reservation, which had been prepaid with his credit card.

By Christine Hauser

Hertz, a rental car chain, has apologized after an employee refused to give a Puerto Rican man his prepaid reserved car at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport because he presented a driver’s license issued on the island instead of a passport.

The man, Humberto Marchand, recorded and described part of the incident at the Hertz counter in Kenner, Louisiana, and shared it on Twitter on May 10. It was widely viewed as others told similar stories of how Americans often fail to realize that people born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, are U.S. citizens.

Marchand began recording while the interaction with the Hertz employee was already underway, and apparently after she had requested his passport instead of permitting him to use his driver’s license, issued in Puerto Rico.

“It is a valid ID,” Marchand says repeatedly, as he films. “It is a prepaid reservation.”

“Would you like me to call the police?” the employee says.

“Yes, please call the police,” he says. The woman takes a cellphone from her pocket and begins to speak, providing the location of the Hertz counter.

“Call the police. I am not doing anything illegal,” Marchand says.

“Yes you are,” she replies.

He says she is “denying a U.S. citizen” his reservation, which had been prepaid with his credit card.

“Do you know that my driver’s license in Puerto Rico is as valid as a Louisiana driver’s license?” he adds.

When asked Monday about the incident, Hertz said in a statement that the employee had not followed policy. It said the company accepts Puerto Rican driver’s licenses from customers renting in the United States, without requiring a passport.

“We sincerely regret that our policy was not followed and have apologized to Mr. Marchand and refunded his rental,” the company said. “We are reinforcing our policies with employees to ensure that they are understood and followed consistently across our locations.”

Marchand’s story was picked up by national news organizations and Spanish-language media. In a widely shared interview with David Begnaud, a national correspondent for “CBS Mornings,” Marchand said that the Kenner police officer who responded to the Hertz employee’s call told Marchand that he would call “Border Patrol” if he did not leave the premises.

Marchand, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as a former U.S. federal probation employee, could not be immediately reached earlier this week. There was no response to emailed questions sent to the Kenner Police Department.

People born in Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, have the same birthright U.S. citizenship as people born in the 50 states under Section 302 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Its people have a delegate in the House of Representatives and a say in presidential nominations, although they cannot vote in general elections without residency in one of the 50 states.

The experience of Marchand, whose license was in English and Spanish, according to Begnaud’s report, is a recurring matter in the United States. A 2017 poll showed that only a slim majority of Americans realize Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

Begnaud’s report stirred similar stories from other U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico of their own encounters with private-sector employers and government agencies.

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