John and Rose Vousden are caught in a bureaucratic squeeze, with the state DMV refusing to renew his driver’s license because it doesn’t recognize his 1961 green card, a card that federal officials say shows he is in the country legally. - Jim Craven

Legally in the U.S.; illegally driving

MEDFORD — As 78-year-old John Vousden drives the streets of Medford to take his wife to a medical appointment, he's understandably nervous.

"I'm watching my back every minute, man," said Vousden, who moved to the U.S. from England 48 years ago.

A year ago, Vousden lost his driver's license after the Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services told him his green card was no longer valid.

"They said they couldn't read the number on the green card," Vousden said with a distinctly English accent. "Mine is really beat up and worn. It's bound to be beat up and worn, like me."

Vousden showed the 1961 green card, which is ragged around the edges but still very legible and doesn't have an expiration date on it.

That means he is in the country legally, just as he has been for almost a half-century. But it apparently carries little weight with either federal immigration officials or Oregon's DMV, both of whom have failed to respond to repeated requests to resolve his dilemma.

Even without a driver's license, Vousden sometimes needs to take his 76-year-old wife, Rose, for medical appointments when she is unwell, keeping his fingers crossed he doesn't get pulled over. His wife also has a similar type of green card and received a new driver's license two years ago before the DMV adopted new rules that required more identification papers.

Vousden said he has considered alternative ways of getting her to the doctor's from their home on the outskirts of Medford, but nothing seems practical.

"There is no transportation around here," he said. "I can't afford bloody taxis."

He said he needs to go to Portland to visit immigration offices, but is wary of leaving his wife for such a long journey.

The DMV said Vousden's problem actually is not with the legibility of the green card, but that it is outdated.

"We've run into this before," said DMV spokesman David House. "It's not on the list of documents that we accept."

House said Vousden should continue to keep in touch with the DMV's customer-care unit to see whether he can get further extensions. Vousden will need to resolve his green-card issues before he can get a driver's license, House said.

Vousden, who initially received two extensions on his driver's license, isn't the only resident of Oregon who has found the new DMV rules daunting.

Government-issued birth certificates, marriage certificates and other paperwork now are required but often are difficult to obtain, particularly for the elderly.

The new rules require proof of citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S. and official documents to verify a Social Security number. The rules were created to weed out people falsely claiming to live in Oregon, which corresponds with regulations already in place in other states.

Chris Rhatigan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said some green cards had no expiration dates on them, which means the person is legally in the U.S.

"If he does possess a legitimate green card, he is considered a permanent resident," she said.

Even if someone has a green card that has no expiration date, immigration services advises they still should be renewed because vital statistics and the picture have changed markedly over the years, Rhatigan said.

If a green card expired, she said it would require applying for a new one.

Vousden has sought help from an attorney because he has become overwhelmed dealing with immigration and the DMV.

"It's the craziest setup you've ever heard," he said.

His wife of nearly 60 years said she's not worried that anybody will take her husband away because of this mess.

"Nobody's seen my temper," she said.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said his office has contacted the ombudsman for the DMV to see whether there is any way to resolve this problem.

"The DMV is trying to find out what flexibility they have on this," he said.

Buckley said it is a constant struggle for state government to come up with rules, but allow for flexibility to deal with situations like this in a commonsense manner.

"It's frustrating," he said. "We shouldn't treat people like this."

Teresa Galindo, legal assistant with Kellington and Kellington Attorneys in Medford, said the Vousdens have appealed to immigration officials to be placed under a special program designed to help the elderly or people with medical conditions. Even after signing up for the program, in which immigration officials would come to the Vousdens' house, there has been no response, said Galindo.

"He would have his green card by now," she said. "He would have had his license by now."

All the paperwork has been sent to immigration officials, but she said they now are requiring Vousden to get police clearance for the past 40 years.

Galindo said she accompanied Vousden to the sheriff's office to get the clearance, but officials had never heard of the requirement before and weren't equipped to deal with it.

"A sheriff's deputy is going to accompany him to the OSP (Oregon State Police) to get the police clearance," she said.

Galindo said Vousden lives in constant fear when he has to drive his wife to the doctor's office.

"It's just been such a hassle for him," said Galindo. "All he wanted is to renew his license."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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