Richard Marks has enjoyed a long career as a night club musician in Oregon and California. He is an accomplished performer on several instruments.
All was well until he went to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in early 2011 to renew his driver’s license, a license he had held for 50 years with no traffic violations or accidents and on which he still depends for his livelihood. With new requirements imposed by the Patriot Act, DMV turned Richard away telling him that he lacked necessary documentation to renew his license.
The problem was that Richard was “born under a tree somewhere,” according to him, but he was not sure just where that somewhere was. With only a midwife in attendance, Richard’s birth was never officially documented on a birth certificate. His parents were migrant workers who had emigrated from Yugoslavia back in the early 1900’s. Richard grew up in Oregon, married at 18, raised four children, and now has 14 grandchildren.
A local attorney referred Richard to Help Now! for assistance. Advocate Bonnie Pickering, who took the matter, began exploring every option she could find. Richard’s illiteracy made it virtually impossible for him to address the issue himself, and his heart condition was exacerbated by the stress of the situation.
For the first 35 years of his life, Richard used the name Dickie. As a result, when Bonnie contacted the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office for assistance locating records, she learned of the complication that he had two sets of records with the agency. SSA proved most helpful, however, in advising which records are accepted as proof of identity under the Patriot Act—specifically that something called a “ numident”, a printout, which comes from SSA headquarters and shows the individual’s place of birth is a critical piece of identification.
Bonnie promptly wrote SSA headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland for the numident. When the numident finally arrived months later, it showed Richard’s birthplace as Stockton, California. However, when Bonnie contacted the Vital Statistics Department of California for Richard’s birth certificate and also the Catholic diocese in the Stockton area for Richard’s baptismal record (an accepted form of identification according to SSA), no records were found.
Based on information from Richard, Bonnie did obtain a copy of his 1970 marriage license from Reno, Nevada. In addition, Richard provided Bonnie a copy of his son’s birth certificate.
As various other forms of identification came in for Richard, Bonnie presented them to the DMV. Her first three attempts to satisfy the DMV with what she had obtained were turned down. Through the process, however, Bonnie was able to enlist the support of the state DMV ombudsman in Salem. The ombudsman worked with Bonnie to get an unprecedented four temporary extensions on Richard’s license while Bonnie collected additional identification.
Finally, in January 2012, and nearly a year after Richard first requested help, Bonnie, with the ombudsman’s assistance, persuaded the DMV to issue Richard a permanent license based on the numident, the marriage certificate, the son’s birth certificate, and Bonnie’s file notes of all the places she had contacted.
Besides the inconvenience and stress, this was a very demoralizing experience for Richard. “I felt like I didn’t know where my country was. It hurt my American feelings and made me feel like an alien. I began to wonder where they were going to send me.” When Richard finally learned the good news, Richard told us “my thanks to you outnumber the stars in the sky, the beads of sand on the beaches, and drops of water in all the oceans.”