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California DMV Director Apologizes to Sikh American Over Photograph Concerns


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    Washington D.C. – March 20, 2008: The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently apologized to Mr. Ramandeep Singh Anand and the Sikh American community after Mr. Anand was initially barred from taking his drivers license photograph while wearing his religiously mandated turban at the West Covina branch of the DMV.

    “Please convey my apology to Mr. Anand for the unsatisfactory service he received when he was requested to remove his turban for a driver license photograph,” wrote DMV Director George Valverde in a letter to SALDEF. “It is regrettable that the proper procedures were not followed on the day of Mr. Anand’s visit.”

    Additionally, Mr. Valverde has instructed DMV staff to review cultural and religious accommodation policies including specific references to the Sikh turban. While Mr. Anand was able to take his picture that day, it required an inordinate amount of discussion, explanation and time that some of the most vulnerable within the Sikh community may not have understood how to navigate through. SALDEF is continuing to work with the DMV to ensure long-term protections are implemented.

    “We thank Mr. Valverde and the California DMV for their prompt attention to this matter,” said SALDEF National Director Rajbir Singh Datta. “Mr. Valverde and the California DMV have demonstrated the utmost sincerity in their apology and a strong willingness to collaborate against potentially discriminatory practices.”

    California statue requires a full-face photograph which displays the facial features (eyes, nose, and mouth). California residents are not required to remove any headgear that is part of his/her normal identification or worn due to religious beliefs such as the turban.

    If you believe you have been denied access or been subjected to any form of harassment due to your faith, please report it to SALDEF immediately at 202-393-2700 or via

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