Wednesday, February 09, 2005

the best way to fail drivers' license exams

"Be a legal alien and try to get one" is the answer--you might not even allowed to take the exam.

The so-called Real ID Act that is going to be presented to the House floor tomorrow caught my attention as yet another hindrance to my ever-furthering goal to get a drivers' license. The little known fact is, it is neigh impossible to obtain one if you do not have a social security number, even if you are residing in the U.S. perfectly legally. The matter concerns the kind of visa you are issued. If you are on a student visa, with which you are not authorized to work off campus, you are not eligible for a social security number. That is not too hard to understand--social security is based on workers' financial contribution to the system. The problem arises, though, from the fact that the functions of social security number is not solely limited to the administration of social security, but also extend far into the everyday life as the ultimate ID number. Without a SSN, one cannot open a bank account. Nor can one obtain a drivers' license. Or at least one could not.

With the introduction of Temporary Visitor's Drivers License by the State of Illinois this year, now lawful residents without a SSN can get a drivers' license and feel like a human being. If everything goes fine, that is. You might be turned away by an ignorant drivers license administrator who refuses to believe your (absolutely correct) explanation on how one of the hundred immigration documents you present to him function. Or your immigration record might not show up on their computer for some mysterious reason or the other, in which case you have to go home and wait for an obscure verification letter supposedly sent from Springfield. When you go back to the facility with the letter in hand, what would happen I do not know, for those were what happened to me and I have not received that (optimistically) omnipotent letter from the State Capital yet.

I do not understand why so many people oppose the idea of nation-wide ID numbers, when it aleready virtually exists as a SSN. The problem of using the SSN as a universal ID is the fact that the issuance of the numbers is not universal(!). Its original purpose of providing contribution-based benefits blocks quite a few legal aliens from obtaining one, thus in effect greatly hindering their ability to function in the society they legally reside. It probably will not materialize, but I am eager to see the widespread use of SSN as an ID someday reconsidered.


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