Opinion: Want to prove who you are? Get a birth certificate. Want to get a birth certificate? Prove who you are.


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In case you thought only actual immigrants suffered by our kooky bureaucracy, give Erik K. Ward’s story a read.

A staff member at the Center for New Community, Ward, an African American whose family moved to California over 100 years ago, explains how he went from born citizen to undocumented after losing his passport and social security card in an airport mishap. Lacking a driver’s license because of a visual impairment, Ward needed to obtain a copy of his birth certificate. Try to follow along through the (insert your favorite pejorative adjective for bureaucracies) maze:


I contacted the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and was told that in order to receive my birth certificate, I needed to present a copy of my passport, or driver’s license, to verify I was, in actuality, Eric K. Ward.Since it was obvious, after twenty minutes of discussion, that I didn’t own a driver’s license, a passport, or a social security card, they told me to fill out the proper forms in front of a notary public in Chicago.... But when I got there, the notary public said I needed a passport, social security card, or driver’s license to receive an official notary seal....[S]ince I had a number of newspaper articles with photos documenting my identity, the notary public accepted my articles with somewhat dubious satisfaction.... Four weeks later my birth certificate arrived!But when I arrived at the Post Office to pick it up, the attendant asked me to produce a passport, driver’s license and, most ironically, a copy of my birth certificate to obtain my birth certificate. After waiting an hour and pleading with two supervisors, I‘m proud to say that I now possess a certified birth certificate!I wish I could say everything went smoothly from this point on....

If you can stomach it, there’s more where that came from. But the kicker:

As African Americans we should be deeply concerned about the ongoing attack on immigrants and refugees. Why?We know what it’s like to be second-class citizens -- and it’s about to happen again.

Thanks to the Immigration Law Professors’ Blog for the link.