For some time - particularly the last two years - I've been aware of the catch-22 that can occur if people lose important documents like their photo IDs, Social Security cards, and birth certificates. To get an ID, a birth certificate is needed - but to get a birth certificate, an ID is needed.
I fully understand the need for preventing identity theft and terrorism, but at the same time, honest people finding themselves in this catch-22 should be able to get their necessary documents and get their lives back in order.
The crazy thing is that fixing this catch-22 is so unbelievably simple and easy that it's amazing that it hasn't been put into widespread practice. It's all about fingerprints.
If people find themselves losing all important documents, then all they should have to do is show their fingerprints. At least where I live, fingerprints are taken when people get their driver's licenses, so their fingerprints should be on record. It shouldn't even matter whether IDs are expired. Fingerprints are unique, so they can almost certainly verify the identities of people with expired or missing documents.
This would make restoring missing documents so much easier - but still just as secure as requiring valid documents is now - and without catch-22s.
Granted, I realize that even this isn't completely infallible - in that a few select people might have sanded-off fingerprints - or some other problem that would distort them or make them useless. However, first, verifying with fingerprints would significantly reduce the amount of people caught in catch-22s, and secondly, fingerprinting is merely a low-tech option. With today's sophisticated technology, if people got desperate enough, their DNA could be tested to verify their identities.
I think that presenting valid documents can still be the primary, preferable way to verify identity since verification through fingerprints and DNA would be more time-consuming and possibly costly. However, verifying through fingerprints or DNA should definitely be an acceptable and more widespread way to verify identity in the absence of valid documents.
Fingerprints, at least where I live, are taken when getting driver's licenses, so it only makes sense to be able to verify identity through fingerprints.