Rinn Cronin Kleinman
I moved from New York State a little over a year and a half ago to become a student at Evergreen State College. Though I was working two jobs and going to classes,I could not afford to pay my bills and still have the money or the time to get a Washington state Identification card. Seven months ago somebody stole my wallet from my workplace,which left me without any form of photo ID. So I made my way down to the DMV in Lacey, WA, and was given a long list of documents that count towards getting an ID. I was unable to complete most of them due to not having parents, my lack of photo ID, no criminal record, no marriage certificate, etc.
Now I had a rather large list of things to find and this made me feel like I was in a scary and almost impossible scavenger hunt. Mind you, if a police officer catches you without proper photo ID there are hundreds of dollars in fines you will have to pay, and this only made me worry more.
If this experience taught me anything, it’s how this system works against youth and adults without financial support, birth parents, legal documentation and the time to go through all the trouble. I’ve also learned that regardless of what the websites or item lists say, it’s really up to the person behind the counter who decides if they will consider your documents valid or not.
At the social security office, they told me my documents weren’t enough without a photo ID, even as I was told otherwise on the phone, or mislead. This also happened at every visit to the DMV. Most days I found myself giving up because every road led to another dead end.
I finally got a birth certificate which cost $80, a social security card for $25, a screen capture of my old Evergreen State student ID, and about 10-12 other documents that they didn’t accept. I went back to the DMV for the fourth visit and got rejected at the counter. They told me “we don’t accept screen captured or printed copies of IDs. We never have.” At this point I was out of ideas and the energy to deal with this. I explained to the person behind the counter that this process had beaten me down and dehumanized me repeatedly. It’s unacceptable for anybody to have to go through this.
Fortunately, a person a few counters over heard me, and asked the employee assisting me if they could swap customers because they had worked with me before. I made my way over to the other counter to a familiar face (they helped me the past two visits), they smiled and said, “We’ve made an exception for you.” I only had to pay the remaining $70 to get my ID. We arrived at a happy ending, right? No, not even close. An exception was made for me, but what about the next youth that goes through this? Possibly one without the support of an aunt that lends $70 or without The Mockingbird Society’s financial support to get a birth certificate? They won’t get an ID, a social security card, a birth document, a secure place to live, a driver’s license, a job, etc. This year the Spokane Chapter proposed that the State provide access to Identicards for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. I ask that you stand with the Spokane chapter and work together to correct this inequitable, racist and dehumanizing system.