The State of Mississippi does NOT welcome new residents — especially those who might want to work here. My husband and I moved here from another state about a year ago, and it took me SEVEN trips from Southaven to Hernando and Olive Branch to obtain a Mississippi driver’s license.  My frustration caused me to delay getting license plates for my vehicle for another six months, as I was unwilling to undergo that kind of stress again.  I am now being reminded of that misery because my adult son has just moved here from another state and I have been driving him from office to office and city to city to obtain appropriate identification so he can function here.  

On our first trip to the driver’s license office in Olive Branch, they demanded a Social Security card.  We went to the SS office.  After spending several days trying to obtain documents to get one, we ended up waiting for them to come in the mail from out of state.  He cannot get picture I.D. without a Social Security card, which you cannot get with your birth certificate.  He cannot open a bank account without picture I.D.  But in order to get picture I.D. one required document is a notarized statement of who he is.  The bank won’t notarize it because he does not have a bank account there.  (Even my computer knows what circular reasoning is-don’t they?)

I have taken time off work to drive him to get those things.  At the Social Security office, he was directed to get a “certified” medical record.  But the Mississippi Health Department, private doctor’s offices, or hospitals will not give him one because he is from out of state.  He cannot get proof of residency because he lives with other family members and has no lease or purchase agreement on a house.     

On our second trip, with the SS card and picture I.D., they gave him a printed list of things he needed (why not on the first?), which included “proof of domicile.”  Although one state sent him school records, and another sent him picture I.D. through U.S. Mail, that does not show he lives here (then where?)  When my daughter moved here six months ago, they accepted that she lives with her parents and let her get her license.  But he is ten years older, so they would not do that for him.  What kind of discrimination is that?  They would not accept the documents from the U. S. Mail.  We were then told to go to Hernando (30 minutes from where we were) and register to vote, but not told what documents they would need, and were told “I can’t help what another office wants.  I only know what THIS office wants.”  On our third trip, we were handed the document that needs to be notarized (why not on the first trip), which we took to the bank, which would not do it.  It does not help that they will only give driving tests during my work hours, when I am unable to take him there or provide the car.  

I’ll paraphrase my son’s remark: “It wouldn’t have been so bad if that lady’s attitude had not been so nasty.” (His actual words are not printable).  I felt the same way when the man told me he couldn’t help what other offices want.  Obviously, no one who is being paid to serve the customer cares what the customer must endure.  Another family member stated that they must have no empathy or understanding of what we have to go through because of their incompetence and poor communication.  Taking time off work, driving for an entire afternoon in heavy traffic, wasting a tank full of gas, and accomplishing nothing would try anyone’s nerves — and they have no idea why I am angry.

As I write this, the television is talking about a man who went on a shooting spree.  As this seems to be a common occurrence in our country of late, one must wonder if the total frustration and anger built up from trying to wade through an uncaring bureaucracy with sullen employees waiting on you (slowly) ever causes any of those people’s insanity?  Prior to all this bureaucratic nonsense, these shootings did not occur.  I also wonder how a young person who is attempting to start out on his own in the adult world can do so without the help and support of people who have cars and enough money to waste on gas for the myriad trips they must make — just to apply for the documents they need to apply for a job! My generation read J. D. Salinger’s Catch 22 and thought it demonstrated the bureaucratic nonsense present in our world.  We hadn’t seen anything yet!

I will never again recommend that one of my children come here to get a job or establish a home.  Mississippi is not a welcoming environment for new citizens, and its bureaucratic system is set up to prevent one from finding a job and settling here.  Lawmakers, take notice:  you are preventing work and encouraging unemployment and welfare.  Lighten up!

It is apparent that I must take MORE time off work before my son will be able to begin work, because it may take many trips through the bureaucratic maze.  My anger makes me want to say disparaging things about those who run the offices we are visiting, but my Christianity makes me hold my tongue.  I’m glad I do not know how many more trips it will take.  I probably could not face it.

Ann Stressman

Southaven, MS 38671

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