Friday, August 06, 2004

the US of A: a maximum security prison?

in the mailbox today, an email from the Office of International Affairs at the U of C, informing us of new exit procedures beginning -well, immediately, pretty much.
“We will begin testing processes that will make exiting quick for visitors and effective for security,” said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security. “We must implement a straightforward exit process to ensure that individuals adhere to the terms of their admission. This supports our efforts to strengthen homeland security and ensure the integrity of our immigration system.”

As this is a pilot program, US-VISIT will analyze the benefits and challenges of each exit process in order to better develop a system that enhances security while facilitating legitimate travel and ensuring privacy. The exit procedures being piloted require foreign visitors to check out at an automated exit kiosk or with a US-VISIT exit attendant at the departure gate at the port. Foreign visitors will go though one of the following two processes, depending on location. Under one alternative, visitors departing the United States will check out of the country at exit kiosks located within the airport or seaport terminal. As with the process the visitors encounter upon entry, their travel documents are read, their two index fingers will be digitally scanned at the exit kiosk, a digital picture will be taken and they will receive a printed receipt that verifies that they have checked out. An exit workstation attendant will be available to assist with visitors’ check out. Visitors also may be required to present the receipt at their departure gate to confirm that they checked out at the exit kiosk.

Another alternative under the pilot program is a biometric check-out process with a US-VISIT exit attendant stationed at visitors’ departure gates. To help the process run smoothly, foreign visitors will receive a printed card explaining the exit process from U.S. Customs and Border Protection when they arrive in the United States. Also, directional signs are strategically located throughout the airports and seaports.

US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins overseas and continues on through entry and exit at U.S. airports and seaports and eventually, at land border crossings. The US-VISIT program enhances the security of U.S. citizens and visitors by matching the identity of visitors with their travel documents. At the same time, it facilitates legitimate travel and trade by leveraging technology and the evolving use of biometrics to expedite processing at our borders.

yeah, and if you believe that more delay 'facilitates legitimate travel and trade' i have a gold mine in bukit timah to sell you...much as i love chicago and new york, this whole being-treated-like-a-criminal thing gets old fast. first, barcodes on my I-20, easily faked on a laser printer, i'm sure. then, fingerprinting and phototaking upon entry into the US (after a twenty hour flight, no less. i'm sure they'll be able to recognise me from that photo if they saw me again). now, fingerprinting and phototaking upon exit. i'm not sure that it adds much value to the entire security situation, and it sure as hell pisses me off -and as for improving relations between the US of A and the rest of the world, it sure doesn't help. sure, it will help them track people better - if their intelligence agencies can get their shit together and coordinate better. otherwise it will continue to be just as easy for terrorists to slip through the cracks (more like gaping chasms) in the system, while ordinary, honest tourists and students like me have to face ever longer and slower immigration lines and exit lines, to boot.

also in the mailbox today, from rachel castignoli:

The Independent Republic of New York: Should New York Secede?

...After contemptuously dismissing the idea, even the crustiest, crankiest city officials will say that, yes, the Democratic Republic of New York is a very interesting place to contemplate. How fabulous our national anthem would be. How cool our currency, the york, would look. Vera Wang could design our flags, Groucho Marx would be on our stamps; we’d all agree not to have a national bird (sorry, pigeon). Bill Clinton could be president again—assuming, after eight years of presiding over the Free World, he has the patience to worry about potholes—though Ed Koch jokes he’d volunteer for the job, adding he’d name an international airport after himself and call it EIK. ...

New York is my favouritest city in the world. and how much more i would love it if i didn't have to be fingerprinted and photographed to be there! how unfortunate, then, that it will never happen. but hey, we can dream...


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