Why is an ID so hard to get?At first, the judge was looking at me like I was speaking Swedish. But as I told the story of G.J., a63-year-old man who has never had an official photo ID, understanding dawned.
Having a photo ID is second nature to most of us. I’ve had a Florida driver’s license since my 16th birthday and, even when I lost it, I just went and got a replacement card. No big deal, right?
But for a surprisingly large number of people, it is a very big deal. In the past year, Legal Advocacy at Work has helped more than 400 people obtain IDs.
If you don’t have ID, the process is full of blind alleys, dead-ends and Catch-22s. To get a photo ID, you need a Social Security card; but if you don’t have a Social Security card, you need a photo ID to get one.
G.J.’s predicament was especially difficult. He’d never had an official ID, so there was no paperwork anywhere that we could dig up. He receives Social Security disability benefits, but those records are only "secondary ID" and not sufficient to get DMV to issue him a Florida ID card.
We needed to get his birth certificate, but he was born in New York -- the most difficult state to get a birth certificate unless you go there in person. For a guy who lives on about $450 a month, traveling to New York to get a birth certificate is not an option. For one thing, you need ID to get on a plane or even a bus. And even if he had the money, G.J. probably isn’t capable (because of his disability) of traveling to a city over a thousand miles away, going to a government office and obtaining his documentation.
With the help of family members still in his hometown, we got his birth certificate. That’s when we discovered that the name on his birth certificate is not the name he’s used for his whole life. The birth certificate bears his mother’s name, but he’s always used his father’s name. Now what?
The only thing we could think of was to change his name back to the name on his birth certificate. That’s how we ended up in court.
But there was another Catch-22. To change your name in Florida, you have to be fingerprinted. You can go to the police station and get yourself fingerprinted (that costs $8 in Orlando) -- but you have to have an ID.
So we asked the judge to order the police department to fingerprint G.J. He was glad to sign the order and G.J. was fingerprinted that afternoon.
We’ve almost there. One more court hearing to finalize the name change and then a trip to DMV to get the ID.
Want to help folks like G.J.? A donation of only $10 will pay for a replacement ID card. For $50 , we can obtain a birth certificate from another state and then get a Florida ID card issued.