ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Thirteen people were arrested in St. George this week and held for deportation for allegedly using fake or altered documents to apply for Utah drivers' licenses, police Chief Marlon Stratton said.
Only three such arrests were made during all of 2002, police spokesman Craig Harding told The Spectrum.
"We are arresting everyone, across the board, if they go to the driver's license division and present false information," Stratton told the Deseret Morning News.
The change is at the request of the St. George police chief, said Bart Blackstock, deputy director of the state Driver License Division of the Department of Public Safety.
"The chief came to us and said he was getting complaints that there were people in the parking lot of the driver's license division offering $20 or so to use someone else's address," said Blackstock. "Good guys don't try to get a new ID that way."
Stratton said homeland security is a huge part of the new policy.
"It causes me real concern that someone could buy a false address and use it to get false documents," said Stratton. "When those types of things happen and an officer makes a stop and asks for identification and registration, we depend on that information. We expect it to be accurate."
Blackstock said that previously, staffers suspecting someone of trying to pass false documents would usually confiscate the papers but not call in police.
Most of those arrested earlier this week gave a Las Vegas or California address. Both Nevada and California require applicants to prove their legal status before a driver's license is issued.
That is not a requirement in Utah, so people try to get a Utah license with a fake Social Security number or tax identification number, said Blackstock.
"Utah does not require proof that you're in this country legally to get a license," he said. "We've taken the stance in Utah, thus far, that this is a public safety issue. It's far better for us to find out who these folks are, test them and give them a license. The other side of that argument is that they may be here illegally."
Those arrested earlier this week were later placed on an Immigration and Naturalization Service hold for deportation after being booked at Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Rosa Martinez, a member of the Community Round Table and Hispanos Unidos and publisher of a Hispanic newspaper in the area, said she is trying to inform people that they don't have to use false information to receive an ID.
They only have to provide two items, such as a translated birth certificate, voter registration card, a current license -- even if its from another country -- or an ID from a Utah Mexican Consulate.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)