Ever wonder how people get along if they can’t get a government-issued picture ID? If they’re like the woman who spoke to an Albany meeting last month, they feel like they don’t belong. It’s a sign of how America has changed — ever heard of the land of the free and the brave? — that often we are faced with demands to prove who we are.
“Your papers please” is the curt phrase we associate with leather-jacketed agents of state security in authoritarian regimes. In America today, we hear something similar — more polite, perhaps, but insistent nevertheless — from ticket agents, sales people and registration clerks. Whether the reason is state security, prevention of ID theft or even terrorist attacks, the result is the same. Without “papers,” you are lost.
On Oct. 27, according to the minutes, a joint meeting of the Albany Human Relations Commission and Hispanic Advisory Council heard from Maria, introduced as the friend of one of the HAC members. From what she said, she has a Mexican consular card, but in the phrasing of the minutes, she feels she does not belong to the city without picture identification. She also had been “detained” trying to get on a plane, and she’s had ID-related problems at her children’s school, with medical providers, and at the DMV, all of which left her fearful and uncomfortable.
Others said that you can’t even go camping or volunteer at a school without an ID that proves who you are. They wondered whether the city could do anything, such as issuing photo library cards, for instance. It could, but it wouldn’t do any good. Our “security agents” today won’t accept anything other than a driver’s license or a passport. (I once tried to get a boarding pass at John Wayne Airport by showing my Oregon concealed handgun license, which has a nice picture, but the agent insisted on seeing my driver’s license instead, even though its lousy photo had me looking like a war criminal.)
In 2014 Oregon voters rejected a bill to issue driving licenses to people who can’t prove they’re in the country legally. That was too bad. I doubt that it made us more secure. But it has made the lives of some of our residents harder than they already are. (hh)