Saturday, January 10, 2015

My name is no longer my name - so I'm told

It's a strange thing to wake up in the country of my birth and find that both my birth certificate and the name I've used all my life are no longer recognized by my government.

I renewed my driver's license in December.  They mailed the new license to me as I didn't have all the right documents the first time I went in.  I guess when you have to go in a second time, they can't give you the license on the spot and have to mail it to you.  Maybe I should back up and explain a bit.

Five years ago the Utah state legislature, in its fear and paranoia about non-citizens ("illegal immigrants" in their words) getting driver licenses, implemented new requirements for ALL license applicants.  You must now prove you are a U.S.citizen, prove you live at the address you say you do, and prove your social security number is your own.  There are various documents they accept.  And they don't bend those rules.  I no longer have a valid passport, so I used a birth certificate for proof of citizenship, which they accepted.  But I had an unaccepted document for social security number and had to return a second time.  It seemed all was good.  

Until I received my new license in the mail.   

My name on the license was Becky RAE Stauffer instead of Becky ANN Stauffer.  What!?  I called to report the error and after lengthy discussions, I was informed that my birth certificate had been altered and that "Homeland Security will not allow us to accept altered documents."  

Yes, my birth certificate has a change on it.  My parents changed their mind about my middle name while I was still in the hospital.  Since the birth form had already been typed up and signed by everyone, the hospital simply crossed out Rae and typed Ann directly above.  And all my life that small change has proven to be no problem for enrolling in school, applying for my first driver license, social security, employment, U.S. passport.  The health department has always provided me with legal certified copies of that same birth certificate containing the change, and it has never been a problem.  Now I am informed that my birth certificate is no longer legal and I must have a new one issued.

So here I am at 67 years old, no longer having a valid birth certificate and with a different LEGAL name than the one I've used my entire life.  I am so baffled, frustrated, and angry at being forced to jump through these hoops.  The state health department tells me that for $20 I can get an "abstract" birth certificate with the corrected name which the driver's license bureau will accept. So there is that additional cost, a trip to the health department and another trip to the DMV.  And I suspect there will be a charge to change my license, too.  And no guarantees the DMV will accept the abstract.

And while it might be tempting to blame Homeland Security and terrorism for this hassle, make no mistake about it: the Utah legislature is responsible for all this trouble -- for requiring all legitimate citizens to prove their citizenship.  What a joke of a state I live in!

And as an afterword, when I first failed to provide the correct documents at the DMV, I observed that nearly everyone applying that morning had a similar problem with documents.  When I went back, I asked the clerk if she thought 90 percent of applicants failed to have the correct documents.  Oh no, she told me, it's more like around 60 percent.  It boggles the mind to think of the ridiculousness of a law that is so confusing that most people can't easily comply.  And then think of the inconvenience and cost to the applicants and to the state as well for having to process the application twice and then mail out the license later.  Just unbelievable.

I rarely get angry.  But this would be one of those rare times.


The Blog of Bee said...

How utterly exasperating and totally unnecessary. I thought that sort of thing only happened here! So if you're not a US citizen, you cannot get a licence???

Bekkieann said...

You have to be a citizen or a legal resident here in Utah. Thanks to our grandstanding legislature wanting to appear to do something about immigration.

Hawk's Perspective said...

Sounds like the new rules were written by the same person that wrote instructions for using Google Docs.

I'm not a robot either. My skins too thin to be a robot.

Bekkieann said...

Hi Herb. Yes, it seems the intent is to make it as inconvenient as possible.

I must admit I prefer that "I'm not a robot" check box over trying to enter those disguised letters and numbers. And it does help keep the spammers under control.