joys of the DMV

Today I took a friend of my husband’s to the Wisconsin DMV to get his state ID. Fermin asked me to go with him because despite having the appropriate paperwork before, he had been denied an ID twice. It didn’t make any sense. Let me also state that Wisconsin does not have a law requiring proof of legal residence as a prerequisite for getting a state ID.

You need three pieces of paperwork for a new ID – one proof of identification and one proof of residence, and then a third of either. Last time he brought three, one of which being his paycheck, which had his name and address printed on it. I sat and read the document list while we waited, verifying that last time they definitely should have given him an ID. Fermin said the woman had taken one look at them, his birth certificate (from Mexico) and his Voter’s Registration Card (from Mexico, but specifically stated on the Wisconsin documents list as acceptable) and then tossed the check back at them saying “I’m not familiar with this,” referring to his employer, a five-location chain of frozen custard places rather popular in Milwaukee. (Side note: Never toss, slide or throw anything at or toward a Mexican, even in a playful, casual way, it’s very rude).

I conveniently had to renew my license and change my address so I went first at the window. Oddly, when I said I needed to change my address, I didn’t need a single piece of proof of my new address – nothing! After I was done I told the agent (coincidentally he was bilingual and had turned down our friend before) that our friend had been there three times and had been treated badly and not gotten his ID. The agent looked at the papers – basically the same ones he had had before – made a joke with our friend in Spanish and assured me that I could go down to get my new photo taken because everything was in order.

After my terrible, unexpected photo was taken and we got our IDs, we discussed why this time it had been so simple, although virtually nothing had changed. There really was nothing to conclude except that my comments or presence deflected any potential bull@#%* from occurring. I was also amazed that at this DMV, where a good third of the people there appeared to be Spanish-speaking, there was one bilingual agent (out of thirteen) and no one available at the information area who spoke Spanish.

I suppose there are still people who believe that if you are in America you should speak English, but getting a legal state ID is one of the first things someone needs when they arrive here, in order to get a job. Later, an immigrant usually learns English. Other human rights issues aside, our economy needs these immigrants, and those who think we should discourage immigration do not understand who cooks the food in our restaurants, pick our fresh fruit, stock our big Walmarts and do all the other menial tasks that Americans find ourselves above. It’s just infuriating to see people treated badly simply for the fact that they are Hispanic, or foreign, or don’t speak English.

In other news, I’ve been downloading music into my iPod all day. So exciting.

2 Responses to joys of the DMV

  1. Mary says:

    what a story.

    very vivid. and sad.

    thank you for sharing.

  2. allan says:

    So even though you didn’t choose any of my title options for your blog, I’ve decided to grant you pardon and let you know I’ll continue to read your blog.

    Ahh. Laura, I went to the beloved DMV this week too. I honestly had such a great experience. I kid you not. Perhaps it was because I was ready to do battle with the forces of Hell on Earth but the guy putting nail polish on his nails behind the counter was so helpful and funny too!
    Mmmm… sorry to hear about your friends fiasco. I have a trunk load of thoughts and theories about covert discrimination, glass ceilings, own race prejudice, stereotypes, classism over racism and the damage pc talk has done to the journey of reconciliation etc but I wont’ say anything. Unfortunately far to many white friends ears turn off when a non-white guy starts talking about race, you know, its viewed as that annoying hobbyhorse topic that minorities like harping on. So I guard myself to only intelligently discuss it with people who genuinely want to talk.
    So thanks for genuinely sharing.

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