These issues I’ve addressed so far are a little obvious, but in a way that’s good obvious because most people would agree that safety and expenses are things we would like to keep high and low, respectively. And people would also prioritize both issues before most others. But there are some much, much deeper issues here, which brings me to…
Veronika Geronimo didn’t always work for the Hawaii Immigration Legal Center. Before that, she was the Executive Director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. There, she worked to help battered women escape their abusers, undergo rehabilitation, and start new lives. Helping a woman escape her abuser and heal from the trauma of abuse was a rare victory, but starting a new life proved to be just as difficult a step as the first two, for reasons just as unfair, but far more bureaucratic.
When a woman leaves her abuser, it is often unplanned and in secret. It’s an escape scenario, so when she leaves, she doesn’t say, “I am leaving now because you are abusive. I am never returning and will likely report you to the authorities. Nice knowing you.” Much less likely is she to have time to pack her things which is where a problem arises–she doesn’t take her papers with her. What papers? Her social security card, her drivers license, her passport, and her birth certificate. In the panic to escape from harm, she leaves them behind.
As a consequence of escaping without papers, women who go through the process of healing and prepare to begin new lives are stopped short by something as trivial as a drivers license just because they can’t produce their birth certificate. These women are American citizens. Escaping abuse doesn’t make them criminals–it makes them a part of a brave minority. But still there are laws like the one requiring that they present a birth certificate that make it nigh impossible for them to move on.
Veronika worked within this system and experienced understandable frustration for these women, so she decided to move on in her career to do something about it. Passing the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act, for Veronika, would mean much more than a lower monthly insurance bill. It would mean empowering countless battered women who are ready to start new lives.