My 83-year-old father wants to winter in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for perhaps the last time. I'm driving down with him and then I'm flying home. In the spring I'll fly down to the McAllen airport, help him pack up and drive him back home. That's not the problem.
You see we like to cross the Rio Grande into the little Mexican border town of Nuevo Progresso for an authentic Mexican meal. We had Thanksgiving dinner at Garcia's Restaurant above the Canada Store on Ave. Benito Juarez last year and the food and friendly service were wonderful.
So between then and now the Department of Homeland Security says that Americans coming back from Mexico and Canada, starting January 31, 2008, must possess a passport. So, thinking I'm doing the right thing, on October 19 of this year, I go to my credit union, open my safe-deposit box, retrieve my birth certificate where it has lain for the last eleven years and go to the passport office in the main Post Office. I fill out the application form, have my photo taken, surrender my birth certificate, which at the time the lady handling the application found in perfect order, and wrote out two checks, one to the State Department for $67 and another to the Postal Service for $45. This is so simple I don't know why I never did it before. So far so good.
But when I open my mail on November 5 I find a letter from the Charleston (SC) Passport Center tell me that there's a tiny corner cut out of the bottom of my birth certificate (this was how some asshole named "Michael" described it to me over the phone last night.) A fucking tiny corner missing from the bottom of my birth certificate?! What the fuck?! Did Polk County have micro-chips embedded in that missing corner of my birth certificate in 1950 or something?! What the fuck difference does it make?!
Anyway, you can't talk to anybody from the U.S. State Department Passport division over the phone about this, you can't email anybody and get any satisfaction and the fucking Charleston Passport Center is closed to the public! This is MY government we're talking about here. A fucking federal facility not open to the fucking public! The only way one can contact the Charleston Passport Center is via snail-mail, something I don't really mind, but it is childish. Here's the reason given for this petty behavior by my government:
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), requiring all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S.Got it? "...to quickly and reliably identify a traveler."
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on February 22 its intent to propose, as part of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), significant flexibility regarding travel documents required for U.S. and Canadian children as part of WHTI requirements for U.S. land and sea border entry in 2008.
The goal of the initiative is to strengthen U.S. border security while facilitating entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors by providing standardized documentation that enables the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler.
But you know what, folks?! This isn't for security's sake. This isn't going to keep terrorists out of the country. This is about harassment and humiliation. This is bullying by the Department of Homeland Security. But that's what this government is now all about; it bullys and harasses its employees, bullys other sovereign nations, humiliates illegal immigrants and harasses, humiliates and bullys it citizens in thousands of little ways on a daily basis.