A picture of a “DEPORTM” vanity license plate surfaced on Twitter, and Utah residents are concerned.
The tweet was posted by a high school teacher in Utah, Matt Pacenza. The license plate is pronounced “deport ‘em.”
Pacenza’s tweet read; "Hey (Utah Driver License Division), how does this plate I just saw not violate your guidelines?"
Over 100 people were quick to comment on the post, and many used words like “horrific” to describe the plates. One user also commented; "that should never have been accepted by the DMV."
When contacted by KSL, a CNN affiliate, the public information officer with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Tammy Kikuchi, confirmed that the vanity license plate had been approved back in 2015.
Offensive speech that does not consist of true threats or incitement to violence is protected by the First Amendment. However, there are specific rules that apply to customized license plates.
According to the Utah DMV website, license plates combinations that are "vulgar, derogatory, profane or obscene and express contempt, ridicule or superiority of a race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation," are prohibited.
Daniel Thatcher, a Republican state senator, commented on Pacenza's tweet, stating that he had reached out to the Driver License Division and was waiting for a response.
The next day, he added a comment stating that the state Tax Commission was aware of the vanity plate, and that investigations were underway.
He later stated that the license plate was using "State resources to promote divisiveness and racism."
State Senator Luz Escamilla stated that the license plate had caused great concern, and that it was scheduled for discussion on Wednesday at the Utah Legislature's administrative rules review committee meeting.
Scheduled to be present at the meeting were representatives from the Tax Commission and the DMV. The committee is set to find out how decisions accepting or denying personalized license plates are made.
When KUTV asked the DMV for a list of license plates that had been rejected, they received more than 100 of them. They included "SAUSAGE," "NSTYHOE," "W1NGMAN," and "PLAN B."