Published in the Rains County Leader on November 10, 2022
Dirk Schutter, resident of Rains County since 2001, has been a citizen of the United States since 1960. But because of an expired driver’s license and three missing digits on a bureaucratic form, he is now classified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as “lawful presence not verified.”
Schutter was born in Wilp, Holland on July 18, 1937. When he was twelve years old, in order to find a better quality of life for their children and better healthcare for Dirk who was recovering from polio, his family immigrated to the United States. This was during a time when immigrants were required to have a U.S. sponsor who would guarantee a place to live and a job for at least five years. Upon arrival in New York, new arrivals were processed through Ellis Island before being sent to join their sponsors. In the Schutters’ case, their sponsor was in Terrell, Texas.
Schutter had completed the fifth grade in Holland, but he spoke almost no English. Instead of making special provision for his lack of language skill, the school system dropped him back to first grade. He learned quickly and almost caught up to grade level, graduating from high school at the age of twenty. By that time, he had met Patricia Moore and had fallen in love. However, her mother wouldn’t allow her daughter to marry a non-citizen, fearing he would take her back to Holland. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Schutter attended naturalization classes, and on August 29, 1960, he became a citizen of his adopted country.
When he graduated from high school, Schutter had tried to enlist in the Army, but because he was wearing braces, he was rejected and classified 1F. As part of the naturalization process, he was required to update his draft status and to have his draft card ready to show the court at his naturalization hearing. When he went to the draft board, he was still wearing braces, but he was told that was not a hindrance, so he was reclassified 1A. On the day of his and Patricia’s wedding shower, he received a draft notice.
That did not changed the wedding plans. On September 30, 1960, Dirk and Patricia became Mr. and Mrs. Schutter, and in December he was sent to Germany. Once he was settled into his duties, he received permission and sent for his new bride. For the next two years, they lived off base in a rented room with a coal burning stove they used for heating, cooking, and hot water, and a shared bathroom across the hall. He sent her home when she became pregnant and the situation that resulted in the Cuban missile crisis began to heat up. He followed her back to the States two months later. He served a total of eight years in the United States Army, two years active duty and six years reserve. He was honorably discharged on October 24, 1968.
In 1965 Schutter took a position with the United State Post Office. He retired from there in 2001 after 35 years of service. During that time he served in several positions at, among other locations, both the Love Field and DFW Parcel Centers where he worked as a ramp clerk and inspector. Because of the valuable mail he sometimes handled, he had a security clearance.
Schutter has been glad to pay taxes through the years to support his adopted country, never looking for extra deductions but always using the 1040EZ Form. He has also been a faithful voter for the candidates of his choice – and Old Glory flies in front of his home with extra bunting and flags added for the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, and other special holidays.
The Schutter family habitually attended church, and at the age of fourteen, Dirk became a follower of Christ. As a married couple, he and Patricia have been active in a local church wherever they lived. He has served as a Deacon and both of them serve as volunteers whenever and wherever they are needed. In addition to the local church activities, the Schutters used their building skills as active members of Campers on Mission and Volunteer Christian Builders, building churches and related buildings across the U.S.
On July 18 of this year, Schutter’s Texas driver’s license expired because he thought it renewed next year. He realized his error a week or so after the expiration and went to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office in Emory to get it reinstated. He took an original certified and stamped copy of his Naturalization Certificate along with his discharge papers from the Army, his expired driver’s license, and a couple of other forms of identification. Unfortunately, the DPS clerk couldn’t find his records in the computer, so his renewal was denied, and an inquiry was sent to the Texas DPs.
On August 9 Schutter received a notice from the Texas DPS saying they were unable to verify the information on his Naturalization Certificate and had forwarded his documents to the USCIS for further review. In the meantime, his status was listed as “Lawful Presence Verification Pending.” On September 19 he received another notification from the Texas DPS saying that the Department of Homeland Security could not verify his information and that he had been classified as “Lawful Presence Not Verified.” He was given a phone number to call and schedule an in-person interview with the USCIS, the closest office being in Irving.
On October 17, he was finally able to get through the computer maze and speak with a live immigration agent named Trant. After doing some further research into Schutter’s situation, Trant said the problem is that, in 1960 naturalization certificate numbers had only seven digits. Now, because of the large increase in naturalization requests, these numbers have ten digits, so the computer does not recognize the older number. He gave Schutter some unsettling information about what would happen if the situation is not rectified in the next few months – his license will not be renewed, he will not be allowed to board a plane or enter a federal building, and much more. Trant said he would refer the case to a Tier 2 agent for further research.
On October 20, while waiting to hear further from the USCIS, Schutter submitted a request for assistance through the website of Pat Fallon, U.S. Representative from Texas. On October 24, he received an email stating that they would act as a liaison for him with Immigration and that he would hear from someone within a week. In the meantime, he received an email from a Tier 2 Agent with USCIS on November 1 saying he would receive a call or email in the next two days. On November 4, he sent a followup email to Pat Fallon’s office asking for an update. As of this writing, he has heard nothing further from either office.
Undocumented immigrants stream across the southern Texas border at a rate of over 7,000 per day with no requirements. Dirk Schutter, legal resident of the United States for 74 years and United States citizen and registered voter for 62 years, 8 year veteran of the United States Army, employee of the United States Post Office for 35 years, and faithful tax payer, is being denied a driver’s license and threatened with possibly much worse because of a change in the computer system. How does this happen in America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?