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I asked the US government for my immigration file and all I got were these stupid photos

I asked the US government for my immigration file and all I got were these stupid photos

“Welcome to the United States of America.”
That’s the first thing you read when you find out your green card application was approved. Those long-awaited words are printed on fancier-than-usual paper, an improvement on the usual copy machine printed paper that the government sends to periodically remind you that you, like millions of other people, are stuck in the same slow bureaucratic system.
First you cry — then you cry a lot. And then you celebrate. But then you have to wait another week or so for the actual credit card-sized card — yes, it’s green — to turn up in the mail before it really kicks in.
It took two years to get my green card, otherwise known as U.S. permanent residency. That’s a drop in the ocean to the millions who endure twice, or even three times as long. After six years as a Brit in New York, I could once again leave the country and arrive without worrying as much that a grumpy border officer might not let me back in because they don’t like journalists.
The reality is, U.S. authorities can reject me — and any other foreign national — from entering the U.S. for almost any reason. As we saw with President Trump’s ban on foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations — since ruled unconstitutional — the highly vetted status of holding a green card doesn’t even help much. You have almost no rights and the questioning can be brutally invasive — as I, too, have experienced before, along with the stare-downs and silent psychological warfare they use to mentally shake you down.
I was curious what they knew about me. With my green card in one hand and empowered by my newfound sense of immigration security, I filed a Freedom of Information request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to obtain all of the files the government had collected on me in order to process my application.
Seven months later, disappointment.
USCIS sent me a disk with 561 pages of documents and a cover letter telling me most of the interesting bits were redacted, citing exemptions such as records relating to officers and government staff, investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes, and techniques used by the government to decide an applicant’s case.
But I did get almost a decade’s worth of photos taken by border officials entering the United States.
I asked the US government for my immigration file and all I got were these stupid photos
Seven years of photos taken at the U.S. border. (Source: Homeland Security/FOIA)
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