Let’s suppose I’m writing the screenplay for Overboard 2, starring Goldie Hawn. In the sequel, there is a person who suffers from complete retrograde amnesia. She is found wandering alone in the wilderness of, for example, Montana, and she possesses no identification of any kind, has no idea who she is, and cannot verify any facts about her identity. Also assume that no one can or will identify her, for whatever reason.
What tools would this person have at her disposal in order to reassimilate herself into society? She has no name, birthdate or social security number that she’s aware of. How could she acquire them? Is there a way to give birth certificates to adults who do not possess one? Or social security numbers? Because she was found in Montana, how would anyone even know she was ever a US citizen to begin with? Perhaps, without ID, she’s guilty of some sort of crime related to immigration? Could she be deported, and to where?
I’ve often wondered about the correlate to this question, which is that if you’re in a country illegally (without papers), but adamantly refuse to say where you’re really from – what can they do to you? They can’t just deport you to a random country, can they? Seems like a person with the discipline not to talk could just stay put forever.
Seems logical to fingerprint her and see if her fingerprints are on file. There are lots of jobs that require fingerprinting.
Does she have distinctive dental work or tattoos or implants?
It’s like CSI, but with a live person. Heck, check her mineral levels to see what city’s water she’s been drinking.
The woman’s path to reintegrating herself into society would most likely start in a local court, with something akin to a petition for a name change. The court would probably hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there was any reason to beleive she was running a scam, and conceivably it might call for testimony from her physician(s) and perhaps even from local authorities. If the court were to be satisfied, then it would issue an order establishing her legal name and probably an arbitrary legal date of birth in the ballpark of her apparent age. That order would have to take the place of a birth certificate, and she’s probably in for some wrangling, trying to get various institutions to accept it as such.
Citizenship would be a somewhat different matter, since that can only be ruled upon by a federal court, not a local one. Offhand, I can’t think of a legal vehicle for her to simply petition that court to declare her a US citizen. One way to accomplish it, though, would be to apply for a US passport, using the above court order as ID. If the State Dep’t issues the passport, that’s a de facto acknowledgment of citizenship. If it refuses to issue the passport, then she could sue the Government in federal court for an injunction declaring that she is a citizen and entitled to a passport. She wouldn’t have any evidence other than her otherwise unexplained presence on US soil plus whatever relevant cultural referents might have survived her amnesia, but I think that’s probably enough to make out a prima facie case (i.e., enough to qualify as a basic good-faith showing).
The Government could oppose the suit, but the court would presumably then expect the Government to proffer an alternative explanation and to take a position on what her immigration status otherwise ought to be. In other words, if they don’t think she’s a citizen, then what is she? Especially if they are seeking to deport her, the Government would have to come up with some evidence that she is here illegally, and the facts of the OP don’t suggest any.
My WAG about deporting illegal aliens who won’t tell you where they’re from is similar–most countries and regions have distinctive accents, and someone who’s good enough at it can probably tell the difference between a Guatemalan and a Uruguayan, or a Portuguese or Brazilian, etc. Or so I would think. Once they have that to go on, they might be able to verify it with the national government in question, right? (Depending on how badly their country wants them back, maybe )
I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me sooner that they can just put her photo on TV and the Internet and ask people who she is. Unless there’s reason to believe that her life is in danger and that’s she’s in hiding. I don’t know how you’d make that call, though.