Monday, September 01, 2008

Undocumented citizens

I have not been able to renew my driver's license, which expires soon, because the State of Oregon wants documents from me that I haven't needed before, and I have had to send off for them. Specifically, since I changed my name when I married, I must buy a copy of my marriage record from the state, to show how I got from my birth certificate name to my married name.

"Just be glad you've only been married once," the DMV clerk told me the other day, as we shuffled through the documents I could scurry up, in (vain) hopes they'd fill the bill. "Some folks have to prove how they got from one name to the next to the next to the next."

I did not have to sign the form I sent off, which struck me as odd. Later I found I could have, if I'd wanted, spent more and made my request online. I also see online where the state is no longer issuing driver's licenses over the counter, because it has gone to face recognition technology. Oh joy. In hopes of scaring off a few terrorists and con men, we all get to be treated like criminals, and have our mugs on file with the government, incorporating the latest technological means of identifying and keeping track of people. (The Department of Homeland Security begs to reassure us, however.)

My father-in-law is not well. I might have to travel a few hundred miles to help my mother-in-law. If I don't have my marriage record when it comes my turn to help (the family's working in shifts), I can either surrender my current license and get a temporary one with no photo, or I can take my license with me and let it expire and depend on others to drive me around. Oh joy. I can be without photo ID, which has foreseeable difficulties, or I can be without a driver's license, with has an entirely different set of foreseeable difficulties. I don't even want to know about the unforeseeable difficulties. If there's a way to renew from another state, I haven't found it yet. (There are a loopholes, but none I can jump through, as far as I can see.)

I am, of course, hoping that somehow I will be properly documented in time. I am trying hard to resist popping off Comrade jokes when I make it back to the Department of Motor Vehicles office and try again. I am in my 50s. I remember when government wasn't so all-fire intrusive. Or expensive. Or big. Or bothersome.

For that matter, I like to read old books. It has not escaped my attention that old books describe a world in which governments in the United States operated, for the most part, within fences they have since busted through.

So, I was at the post office late last week, and in front of me, a woman was asking the postal clerk the best way to send a passport to her son. 'Where's he going?' the clerk asked, being a friend. 'He's not traveling anywhere. He got a job, and he's got to prove he's an American citizen. He's already got the job, but...'

Whereupon the clerk said that she'd just had to fork over $50 for a certified birth certificate for her son, who needed it to stay in college.

Whereupon I mentioned my document woes, and how the certificate issued at the wedding wasn't good enough (which is a moot point for me, because for the life of me I haven't been able to find it), and I'd had to send off $20 for the paper demanded of me.

Whereupon, with another person joining in, we jointly wondered whether the new requirements were mostly about finding a new way to rake in money from the citizenry...

I don't believe that. Not that it's the primary reason, at any rate. But I'd love to see the tallies on revenue generated at the Vital Records departments of this country, listed year by year. I'm almost willing to bet they're becoming cash cows, compared to what they used to be.

Anyway, if you live in Oregon, and are a married lady and not a feminist, you might want to plan ahead. The certificate signed after the ceremony won't help you a bit, apparently. You must buy a copy of whatever got filed with the state where you got married. In Oregon, it costs you $20 for one copy, unless you want rush delivery, which you do online and which costs you $32.50. Such a deal. I don't know how much it costs to get records from other states. I'm hoping they won't take advantage of the new rules and raise the rates. I can see some state officials doing that. "Hey, look! People have to prove how they got from one name to another now. There's no way out of it if they want to drive or have official photo ID. Heh! We got 'em now, boy! Whoo-hoo!"

Yes, I am feeling a bit cynical this afternoon. Why do you ask?

1 comment:

Barb, sfo said...

The same is true in NJ. I had no idea that the marriage certificate I had in my possession (which SAYS "state of NJ" on it) was not THE marriage certificate I needed at DMV. Thank God my father-in-law still lives in the town where my husband and I were married, so he went to Vital Records and got me the right piece of paper.