“inadequate fingerprints”

This is a true story.  The names are changed to protect the innocent.  It’s a story about Homeland Security:  Your taxes at work to protect you from a 71 year old person who spends time working on a 14th century manuscript – which is poetry.

The said individual, let us call him IF (for “inadequate fingerprints”), has been in the US for nearly 44 peaceful years.  However, due to allegiance to this person’s own nation, IF has never taken the trouble to go through the US citizenship process – thus has no little US flag.  Nor big one either.

Homeland Security is in the Federal Building.  Downtown.  To reach there you must have an appointment.  These are sent by mail.  You are given a time and only unless you have a medical problem can you change the date and time.  Even if you have a medical problem, their phone system makes it nearly impossible to reach them or arrange anything whatsoever.

IF has a medical problem.  Just going through security would help them see that.  They know that already.  For this is the second time IF has been summoned for “biometric” processing.

You might not know this, but Green Cards used to last forever.  No longer! IF found this out the first time when arriving back in the US after a family visit in a foreign land which is not named to protect the innocent.  Upon arrival and the showing of the Green Card, which had always been sufficient until that moment, IF was told:  “This card has expired.”

But wait… Right there and then a new one was processed.  Right there in an Airport not to be named.  You know why.

So now Green Cards have an expiration date.  Less than 10 years apparently.  Now here’s the interesting thing.  There is apparently no law that says they must be updated.  It’s only if you leave the country that anyone would notice – apparently.

In any case, even though IF has a medical problem (which possibly might be helped by surgery, but which makes it very difficult to travel, let alone visit Homeland Security), still the determination had been made to apply for the new card “just in case”.   (The medical condition is not life threatening, but merely life-disruptive.)

The medical condition necessitates a lot of washing.  IF thinks of them as “ablutions” – perhaps it’s a way of distracting self from the reasons… which involve very private parts of the body.  And hands of course.

Now hands have fingers.  And fingers have finger prints.  They also have arthritis.

Now on the appointed date, at the appointed hour, IF appeared for the appointed “biometrics”.  One would hope that Homeland Security, which makes use of the most modern methods, would have machines to capture the pattern of an iris.  Or perhaps would take a swab of DNA. But no… fingerprints were wanted.

The modern fingerprint is made on a glass plate connected to a computer.  This writer personally has no idea if ink is involved at all anymore.  That’s because only the person with the letter ordering one to appear for an appointment can even enter Homeland Security.

A little detour to describe Homeland Security.  Many people work there.  Few people are called to show up.  The last time IF was there (ah, yes…”last time” – you can see where this is going…) there was only one other person with an appointment.  There were 3 security guards.  Guarding.  And a bevy of … well… I guess they’re bureaucrats.  Officials.  Maybe like in some Kafka novel.  Naturally the guards do a careful security check.

So there was IF.  Willing to give finger prints.  With hands that were swollen from so much washing….  The lady tried and tried!  Indeed, IF’s “significant other” (someone you would never suspect) wondered where IF was… since it had been hours and hours and no IF was returning from the Federal Building.  What had occurred in the Homeland Security interview?  Had they suspected IF’s involvement in the long ago protesting of a dictatorship in a foreign land?  Indeed, IF had been careful when the Patriot Act was passed, nervous that his significant other had chosen to protest this and that. (Living in a dictatorship had had its effect.)

Well, long story short… the female Homeland Security Official pushed so hard on the fingers for the fingerprints, that poor IF had to plead for her “not to push so hard” due to “I have arthritis in these fingers”.  To no avail…

Finally, after seeking assistance from a supervisor, the official was given leave to accept the “finger prints” and allow IF to go home with the swollen, painful fingers, following the stern warning that if there was any need after the application was processed further, the FBI would contact IF.  Hmmm…

This is the kind of individual your taxes are protecting you from!

Now comes the letter… NO, not from the FBI.  (not yet…)  Homeland Security had determined that the fingerprints were “inadequate” and new ones must be taken.  This time they would not be taken in the afternoon, a good time to find parking (perhaps) near the Federal Building.  But at 8 am.  Together with the warning that the time could not be changed “unless there is a medical reason” – came the stern warning:  If you do not show up for this appointment, your case will be closed.

Case would be closed… What would that mean?

Mind you, a poor person could not apply for a new Green Card in this day and age.  It costs no less than $370!!!  Oh, yes…  Poverty and Green Card do not mix!

So, now what?  One would hope that if the fingerprints are inadequate, Homeland Security would consider that perhaps the methods or the means or the goal of fingerprints is inadequate.  And some other “biometrics” might be considered.  But apparently, in this day and age, when guards are paid to guard and officials to officiate, well…. the procedures must be followed!

5 thoughts on ““inadequate fingerprints”

  1. another trope

    Kafkaesque for sure. And I seriously doubt it will change anytime in the near future.

    But as some kind of mild ineffective attempt for the universe to balance itself out, last night I was surprised when I got pulled over (always drive the speed limit, use my blinkers to change lanes, etc). It turns out my tabs were six months expired. Oops. The sheriff ended up letting me get them fixed today as opposed to handing me a $200 ticket last night.

  2. A perfectly designed Catch-22 . . .

    Thanks for the thought provoking piece, Thera.

    If you haven’t seen it yet, and you ever get the chance, you should take the time and watch the BBC production for PBS’s American Experience of:

    ‘The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer’

    The entire video can be viewed here at PBS.

    This is a quick review of the story.

    The cliche, “Stuck between a rock and hard place comes to mind…” And… Not too overlook how the powers to be recognized an individual who could be manipulated, due to his personal psyche and his known background, and thereby held in check but still be used for the genius that they needed for their purpose.

    Thanks again for the time you took to write this story.


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