Driving privilege cardholders turned away from concert

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(File Photo: Driving Privilege Card sample)

SALT LAKE CITY -- Dozens of people were denied access to a Latino pop concert at a venue where access hinged on having the proper ID.

Many in the mostly-Latino crowd used Utah's driving privilege card as ID to get into Saturday's Enrique Bunbury Show at The Depot in Salt Lake City. But state law prohibits using the card to get into a bar.

As a result, the tone outside the venue started to get tense, according to witnesses, who attribute the encounter to tension over the debate on immigration.

Officials from The Depot say it was about two dozen people affected, but others claim it was hundreds. Depot officials say they were following state law, but admit things did get a little uncomfortable.

Enrique Bunbury is a popular Spanish rock artist. His performance at The Depot sold hundreds of tickets in advance.

But for at least two dozen Latino fans, there would be no concert that night. Security staff checking IDs denied access to those using a driving privilege card, which are given to undocumented people.

Tonia Navarro, a reporter with El Observaro de Utah, witnessed the scene.

"It was obviously a discrimination case," she said. "I know the law is the law and it wasn't a proper ID, but many wouldn't receive any further explanation."

The Utah driving privilege card does say on its face it's not to be used as a valid ID. Outside The Depot, there are signs alerting people to bring other identification.

But Navarro says people did bring things like passports and green cards. The staff rejected those they suspected had been altered.

Navarro says the tone and attitude of The Depot's security people also frustrated the crowd. Tension over immigration-related issues is acute right now, especially about Arizona's new law.

In Utah, the Legislature has considered immigration crackdowns for years. It clarified the driving privilege card law in 2008, designating it for driving and insurance purposes only.

"There's a growing sentiment in Utah that the state of Utah shouldn't be providing any privileges to illegal aliens," said Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo.

Bramble says the cards were not meant to be used as legal identification.

"The issue was, how do you provide a mechanism for operating a vehicle and providing insurance?" Bramble told KSL's "Nightside." "Had it been beyond that, it never would have passed to begin with."

"The driving privilege card statutorily is not an identification card, cannot be used for anything that requires proof of age or proof of identification," he says.

Although she's not planning to introduce legislation to expand use of the card to allow people to buy alcohol, Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, says she would support it to increase state revenue.

"Whether it's to open an account or as a transaction within the private sector, some businesses use that," she said.

However, Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Chairman Sam Granato says he sees no reason to change the law.

"We've just come out with the proper ways to ID [someone] whether it's a passport with proof of age or a driver's license," he said.

"There's a slippery slope -- if we say, well OK, we're going to prohibit everything else but we'll allow someone to party at a club with a driving privilege card, I think that would be very difficult politically," Bramble adds.

Other lawmakers like Sen. Scott Jenkins say if any changes are made, they expect them to further define what the driving privilege card cannot be used for.

The intent of the law is to keep track of immigrants who drive, but many Latinos say those kinds of laws sometimes have unintended consequences.

"Immigrants and Latinos specifically are having a hard time, and that was even captured by a very big artist here in Utah," said Navarro.

Jim McNeil of United Concerts adamantly insists his staff does not discriminate. City Weekly reports The Depot couldn't risk its liquor license, which doesn't recognize these cards as identification.

SmithsTix General Manager Deirdre Hill told KSL Newsradio that she has only heard from roughly 30 people seeking refunds.

Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt, Andrew Adams and Paul Nelson.

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