MY DILEMNA : i am an american, not by birth but by virtue of adoption. i was brought to the us when i was only 18 months old. previously, in my native country : i resided in a government – run orphanage. with no parents and no family, i was a “ward of the state”
my life took a turn for the better when i was hand-selected amongst so many needy children to come to america and have a real family. i have no memories of my native land. english is my first language.
my adoptive parents sponsored me into this country and did so via an orphan visa, which is the official means to bring a minor to the us for the purpose of adoption. once the adoption was final they procured for me a green card, and sometime later : i officially became a naturalized us citizen.
the whole process took place via the proper legal channels and was handled entirely by my parents. at all times ; i was too young to file anything on my own behalf or play a significant role in any of the proceedings. i don’t even recall any of it taking place. but i know that i am a us citizen b/c i previously possessed a passport and social security card.
when i got my first driver’s license at around age 17 it was in the 1990’s and no agency ever demanded any paperwork of me to prove that I’m here lawfully. i managed to get through the next two *decades* of life in exactly the same way. i renewed my license by dropping by the dmv and paying a fee.
the whole nation changed in the mid-2000’s as result of the <real id act of 2005>.
originally intended as a noble purpose : to combat terrorism and thereby keep better track of foreign nationals in the us ; it was approved by congress and federally mandated across the nation and ordered by the government to be implemented in every single us state and territory. at its most basic level : the <real id act> forces states to comply with the federal initiative by checking the birth & immigration status for every single individual seeking to obtain – or even renew- their driver’s license or state ID card.
there is no-one in america who has not somehow been affected by this new legislation. native-born citizens are forced to produce their birth certificate while those who show as being born overseas must provide proof of <legal presence> in the us. not citizenship, per se. just legal presence. additionally : although the legislation was passed in 2005, states were given several years to morph into compliance, and even at that : they did not randomly question anyone’s citizenship status.
rather : they merely waited until people would show up at the dmv seeking a renewal of their existing license or id and THEN they would get at them w/ the new law. in my case : i had renewed immediately prior to the legislation taking effect, so i myself was not up for renewal again til around late 2011 or early 2012
although i most definitely AM a us citizen, i was not able to prove it b/c i had nothing in my immediate possession, or at home to show that i had been naturalized. dmv personnel did work with me and extended my driver’s lic for three months and sent me on my way with a reminder to procure the proof of naturalization.
that’s when i ran into problems so serious the worse doomsayers couldn’t have predicted it. i petitioned the uscis – the agency formerly known as the ins – for my citizenship papers and here they go telling me i am not in their system ! i kept at it, but they just steady responded that i was no where to be found in their database. this went on for over a year. during this time, my temporary license and state id expired and i lost my social security card. things went from bad to worse. i reached out to a faith-based sex worker ministry which ended up linking me up with an experienced, renowned immigration attorney who agreed to do some limited work to see if those records could be traced. uscis rebuffed each and every one of her efforts and simply repeated to her that i wasn’t in the system.
obviously ; i was aghast at this, but she explained that this federal agency has an abysmal history of record-keeping and a reputation for being highly disorganized to boot. drawing on her knowledge and experience and previous history w/other clients ; she clued me in on various elements of which the general public is unaware : the fact that the uscis has only been using computerized databases as recently as the 1980’s. i was adopted several years before then, and the switchover from hardcopy paper files backed up by microfilm data to digitally uploaded records took place sometime in the early 80’s. it is altogether possible, she clarified : for the agency to have misplaced my hardcopy file during this procedure, in fact it has happened before with other immigrants. its a rare occurrence indeed, but not entirely unheard of. and when it does occur; they will not admit it. in most cases ; the immigrant has a xerox copy of their paperwork bearing something called an <alien registration number> and records can often be sought and traced that way. but i had no copies and didn’t know when and where all the different stages of the process had even took place, as we lived in different states when i was growing up and the entire immigration procedure for a foreign adoptee can often take between three and six years, from the time the orphan visa is processed to the actual naturalization .
former president bill clinton streamlined the method in 1996 by signing a law that allows for overseas adoptees to become citizens upon the adoption becoming final, but i was born almost 20 years before that legislation was passed and it was *not* effected to apply retroactively. so no luck for there either….
we are now in well past the mid-point of 2015 and for the previous three years i have had no options for legitimate employment. the ssa wont replace my social security card w/out valid id and the dmv wont issue me a license or state id in the absence of my naturalization paperwork, making legitimate work impossible to obtain. i can’t even work in the safe, licensed spheres of the adult entertainment industry, such as a gentlemen’s club, lingerie or nude < modeling parlor>, or peep-show b/c they are so heavily regulated that they are required by law to collect government- issued identification from every prospective hiree or face being shut down as they are often spot-checked by the authorities, all the more so b/c of the fact they are a sexually – oriented business.
this has pushed me into the “netherworld” of the sex industry, basically relegating me to escort agencies – virtually all of whom exploit the ladies via the ~fee split~ which is tilted in favor of the agency, leaving the girl to make up the rest in “tips”. the other alternative, is independent sex work as an escort or masseuse. its unsafe and fraught with peril. its not an environment anyone should be caught up in. its even LESS acceptable to be forced into this situation b/c a federal agency wont give a us citizen paperwork to which they are entitled as a matter of law.