McKitrick encountered her first obstacle when she applied for Social Security benefits at the age of 65 and was unable to produce an English translation of her Polish birth certificate. Twenty-five years later, she is encountering the same translation issue when the DMV refused to issue her a picture ID card because there was a language discrepancy in her naturalization papers. Strict Utah laws now utilize the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system usually used to determine one’s eligibility for public benefits based on immigration status, but in this case is also used by the DMV to screen potential identification card applicants. McKitrick’s 1920s-era entry into Ellis-Island predates the electronic USCIS system.
As the Salt Lake Tribune notes, the DMV cannot accept “naturalization paperwork, a copy of her mother’s passport and the Polish birth certificate” because it is not in the SAVE system. Although she will have to wait until her files are found in the national repository for a vast majority of government departments including USCIS, this case sheds light on how actual documents are being pushed aside in lieu of the documents in the electronic system.
Unfortunately, McKitrick’s case is not unique. In December 2012, another Utah DMV briefly prevented an octogenarian from receiving her ID because she could not prove that she was granted birthright citizenship through her naturalized U.S. citizen parents whose pre-1950s data was not logged at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. A U.S. soldier born in Utah who served abroad, was also prohibited from receiving his ID because he could not prove his Utah residence. It seems that Utah’s 2010 ID law, which requires proof of citizenship, has locked out the very people that it is trying to protect.
The implications for voting issues are huge for senior citizens who are unable to receive ID cards and sometimes even voter ID cards because they cannot prove their own residency. The failure to allow a nonagenarian citizen from getting medicine may not have been an intended aim of Utah’s law, but it highlights how strict documentation requirements affect naturalized citizens who are long-time voters, like Renate McKitrick.