Published in the Rains County Leader on December 1, 2022:
On November 10 the Leader published a feature article titled “Dirk Schutter, loyal citizen or unlawful presence.” The gist of the story was that Schutter, after having been a lawful resident of the U.S. since 1949 and a naturalized citizen since 1960, had been denied the renewal of his driver’s license. The numbering system on the Certificates of Naturalization had been changed, and his records could not be located in the computer, even though he had a certified copy of his Certificate with him. At the writing of that column, which was submitted on November 5, he was waiting or a response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or Pat Fallon, U.S. Representative from Texas.
On November 7 he received an email from Fallon’s office indicating that he had an appointment with a Mr. Pierson at the Dallas office of the Immigration Service on November 10. There was no address or contact number for Mr. Pierson, so the Schutter’s set out at 4:00 am that morning, hoping to find the office with the help of GPS. However, they ended up at the Irving office. They were told there was no Mr. Pierson and that there was no record of an appointment at that office. However, Schutter was determined to find some answers, so he talked his way past the officer at the door to an agent who was sitting behind a window with a slot at the bottom similar to those at movie theaters.
At first the agent insisted he could not talk with someone who had no appointment, but Schutter’s insistence was more persistent, and the agent finally did a computer search. He was able to find an “A” number which is the number on the original immigration document. This opened the door to Schutter’s computer records and proved that he was who he claimed to be. The agent gave the number to him and told him that DPS should be able to use it to find him in the computer, verify his status, and issue a renewal driver’s license.
On November 10, Dirk went to the DPS office but was told it was illegal for them to use any alternative forms of documentation, so they could not perform the computer search. This time no amount of insistence changed their position – but after he left, they apparently referred the situation to a higher authority. He received a voice mail from a supervisor asking him return their call immediately. Sometimes his metal roof and abundance of trees interfere with his phone service, and he didn’t see the message until much later and wasn’t able to return the call until the morning of November 14. He was given an appointment to come in that afternoon, and after four months of waiting, he was issued a temporary driver’s license. In spite of assurances from many of his friends that everyone receives a temporary license until the permanent one is produced and mailed, Schutter was still cautious in his optimism.
On Tuesday, November 22, the Senior Center threw a Thanksgiving party for their clients. Everyone brought appetizers, desserts, and other potluck dishes to share, and everyone was too full to eat when the regular lunch was served. It was an exciting day, especially for those who live alone and would have no celebration on the actual holiday. But no one was more excited than Dirk Schutter.
Manager Stacy Martin had asked David to open the festivities with a prayer, but before he did, Dirk asked to make an announcement. He stood and said, “Do you remember when you were a teenager how excited you were when you got your first driver’s license? That’s how excited this 85-year-old man is today.” Then he held up his new driver’s license.
It was a long, frustrating ordeal from July to November, but persistence paid off. Thank you to Pat Fallon’s office who set up an appointment for Dirk with Immigration, even though he may have ended up in the wrong office. Thank you to the agent who was willing to step outside his bureaucratic box and find Dirk’s “A” number. And thank you to the DPS supervisor who used an alternative method of identifying Dirk.
The previous story ended with a question: “How can this happen in America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?” The answer is obvious if not simple. America is made up of imperfect people living and working within an imperfect system. But in spite of its faults, the system works if you accept the responsibility that comes with the privileges and don’t give up when you run into the flaws. Congratulations to Pat Schutter for having her chauffeur back and to Dirk Schutter, loyal citizen and licensed driver!