When Humberto Marchand arrived in New Orleans to help his son move out of his apartment, he was confused as to why he needed to show his passport to complete his prepaid rental-car reservation at Hertz. Since he had presented a driver’s license issued from his native Puerto Rico, Marchand thought he was fine showing his government ID from a U.S. territory like he had for the past decade renting from the company.
But after the employee at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport suggested that the American citizen was from another country and needed to show a valid ID, a police officer arrived at the scene on May 9 in response to Marchand recording the interaction at Hertz.
“We’ve had multiple different customers that come here that have an out-of-the-country driver’s license that present a passport,” the employee said, according to body-cam video released by police in Kenner, La., early Friday.
A frustrated Marchand responded, “But this is not an out-of-country driver’s license.”
She ignored him and continued, “Because you recorded us, now you’re not going to be able to rent with Hertz ever! Because you shouldn’t have recorded us, ever.”
Then, the Kenner police officer sided with the Hertz employee and insisted that it was time for Marchand to leave without his rental car, saying, “We are not going to sit here tonight and do this s--- anymore.”
“Do not come back up here and cause any more disturbances,” the officer said, according to video.
Marchand sarcastically responds, “You’re going to call what? Border services?”
Here’s the police body cam video showing what happened when a @Hertz worker at the New Orleans airport called police because a Puerto Rican man kept insisting that his drivers license was valid. The Hertz worker denied the man his pre paid rental car because he couldn’t present… pic.twitter.com/jG6FyDSSz9— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) May 19, 2023
The release of the body-cam footage, which was previously reported by CBS News’s David Begnaud, comes days after Hertz apologized to Marchand for an incident that the company says should have never happened.
“Hertz accepts Puerto Rican driver’s licenses from our customers renting in the U.S. without requiring a valid passport,” a spokesperson said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We sincerely regret that our policy was not followed and have apologized to Mr. Marchand and refunded his rental.”
It’s unclear whether the employee or officer, who have not been publicly identified, would face discipline. The Hertz spokesperson did not mention any specific action taken against the employee, but emphasized that the company was “reinforcing our policies with employees to ensure that they are understood and followed consistently across our locations.”
Kenner Police Capt. Michael Cunningham told The Post on Friday that the department has “initiated an administrative investigation into the manner in which the officer spoke to those involved in the disturbance.”
“The officer’s purpose in responding to the call for service was to keep peace,” Cunningham said. “The officer was not there to mitigate the disagreement over Hertz’s policy or Mr. Marchand’s citizenship, but to bring an end to the disturbance.”
Marchand, 54, of San Juan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning. He told WVUE, a Fox affiliate in New Orleans, that he was shocked he was considered to not be a U.S. citizen.
“I feel like a second-class citizen because there are 3.1 million U.S. citizens that live in Puerto Rico,” he said. “Why do we have to go through this level of scrutiny in 2023?”
Puerto Rico is among the five permanently inhabited U.S. territories. The group also includes Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. People born in Washington, D.C., or four of those territories are U.S. citizens; American Samoans are “U.S. nationals.”
What happened in New Orleans is at least the second incident in the past month in which Puerto Ricans were denied a service at an airport for not showing a U.S. passport. A Puerto Rican family traveling home from Los Angeles was stopped from boarding a Spirit Airlines flight on April 25 because the family’s 2-year-old son did not have a U.S. passport, CBS News reported. Spirit has since apologized, saying in a statement that the gate agent working the flight at Los Angeles International Airport “misunderstood the identification requirements.”
Even though Puerto Rican-issued IDs are Real ID compliant, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and recognized by all states, some workers have maintained that identification from the U.S. territory is not strong enough proof that they’re an American citizen. In 2020, a Circle K employee in Colorado refused to sell a pack of cigarettes to a Puerto Rican woman after the worker incorrectly claimed that the customer did not have a U.S.-issued ID, according to KUSA, an NBC affiliate in Denver. The company later apologized.
Marchand was in town to help his son move out of his apartment at the end of the academic year at Loyola University New Orleans, WVUE reported. Marchand, a 1990 graduate of the school, spent years working as a federal law enforcement officer for the U.S. Probation Office before retiring, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Marchand’s flight from Puerto Rico arrived late on May 9, and he was hoping to get his rental car quickly after prepaying for it three weeks earlier, he tweeted. But when the employee asked him to see his passport, Marchand questioned why he needed to do so after showing his Puerto Rican driver’s license.
“It is a valid ID. It is a valid ID,” Marchand said in the recording.
@Hertz I’ve been a Hertz Gold Member for more than a decade! I just got denied a Prepaid Reservation(3 weeks ago) because I only had my REAL 🆔 Driver License from PR 🇵🇷 - they required to physically show my passport-I only had a digital image!- they called @NOPDNews on me! …. pic.twitter.com/LSymCFPiqE— Bert Marchand Paonessa (@Moonrican1) May 10, 2023
The Hertz employee appeared irritated by the man, repeatedly saying, “I need you to go about your business.” After the man continued to stress he had valid identification, she asked whether he wanted her to call the police. Marchand said, “Yes, please, call the police.”
When the officer arrived shortly before midnight, Marchand attempted to explain how he’s a U.S. citizen and that his ID was valid, according to body-cam video that’s nearly seven minutes long. The officer asked what the issue was and why Marchand “caused a scene.” As Marchand responded and noted that he was a former federal law enforcement officer, the Kenner officer cut him off.
“If you’re claiming that you’re a federal officer, then maybe you can understand the words that are coming out of my mouth a little bit more clear for the third time,” the officer said. “If they say you need a passport and you don’t have one, then what’s the problem? What is that dividing line that you can’t figure out that they’re not going to rent you a car without a passport?”
That’s when the Hertz employee suggested to Marchand he did not have an American ID and falsely claimed he would be banned from renting from the company. As Marchand again tried to make his case, the officer interrupted again.
“We’re not going to do this crap anymore. ... We’re not going to sit here for any longer and bicker over this nonsense,” the officer snapped, according to video. “They’ve got this thing called the corporate office. You can send all the videos you recorded to them [and] try to get your money back.”
The officer asked Marchand for his ID, and the man agreed, saying he was “doing this out of principle.”
“No, you’re doing this because I’m telling you to leave, so that’s unfortunately what’s going to happen,” the officer replied, according to video. “We don’t need any more disturbances.”
Marchand later told WVUE that the experience left him feeling disappointed. Even though he was glad that the officer did not comment on immigration enforcement, Marchand said the officer “was in a position as an arbiter to at least confirm that was a valid ID.”
“Especially my license since it was a REAL ID,” he said.
When Marchand began to exit from the airport without his rental car, the officer had one more question for the Puerto Rican man: “Do you have a U.S. phone number?”