POSTSCRIPT / June 17 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Fingerprints help trace fake FilAms

IN AN unprecedented move potentially affecting thousands of immigrants, including (hope not) a few Filipino Americans, the Trump administration is reviewing now-digitized fingerprints of aliens to weed out those who had gained US citizenship through fraud.

In a report in the Washington Post on June 13, staff writer Nick Miroff said that the US government is analyzing decades-old fingerprints in an effort to revoke the citizenship of immigrants who may have lied or falsified information in their paperwork.

The rescreening will focus initially on those suspected of having committed fraud on their way to naturalization and, conceivably later, on others who may have links to groups considered threats to national security.

Being mentioned as examples of fraud are instances of aliens who had been deported and then coming back under false or assumed names.

The move is covered by a new policy memo issued by L. Francis Cissna, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, initiating the review of now-digitized old fingerprint records and files.

Cissna reportedly acted on a 2016 report by the agency’s inspector general that at least 858 instances of previously deported foreigners applying for citizenship under a different identity. Digital fingerprint comparison makes it easier to ferret out false or assumed identities.

Immigrants found to have violated the law in their application for citizenship could face denaturalization, or stripped of their acquired US citizenship, and deported.

Their expulsion could raise a host of legal and socio-political questions such as what happens to their children who may have been born in the US and, under the jus soli principle, are as American at birth as the US president.

The Trump Republican regime, perceived by some as harsher on profiling-prone immigrants than the previous Democratic administration, already has its hands full dealing with issues over children, reportedly 2,000 so far, being forcibly separated from their alien parents at the border.

Revoking of citizenship, a process sparingly resorted to, is usually carried out in the case of immigrants convicted of glaring crimes, such as fraud in their application for permanent residency or naturalization, or who are deemed to be a threat to national security.

The Washington Post reported: “Homeland Security investigators are digitizing fingerprints collected in the 1990s and comparing them with more recent prints provided by foreigners who apply for legal residency and US citizenship.

“If decades-old fingerprints gathered during a deportation match those of someone who did not disclose that deportation on their naturalization application or used a different name, that individual could be targeted by a new Los Angeles-based investigative division.

“Violators will be referred to federal courts where they could be stripped of citizenship and potentially deported.”

According to the latest USCIS data cited by the Washington Post, 2,536 naturalization cases have prompted in-depth reviews so far. Of those, 95 cases have been referred to the justice department. Only a federal judge — not USCIS — has the authority to revoke citizenship.

In the 2010 Census, 3.4 million persons were listed as Filipino Americans. In 2011, the Department of State estimated their number at 4 million. Filipino Americans constitute the second-largest population of Asian Americans, and the largest population of overseas Filipinos.

Significant Filipino communities can be found in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, Washington, and the New Jersey-New York area.

Census data show that on average, Filipino Americans earn a higher average household income than the national average, and achieve a higher level of education than the national average.

• Benefits vs risks in eye surgery

FOUR years ago, a specialist in New Jersey found my right eye developing a cataract. Should we remove it? He said since my eye was involved, we had to weigh very carefully the benefits against the attendant risks of the procedure.

Since my cataract was not yet “ripe” at the time and I was, well, scared, we postponed the procedure. See me after a year, he said. I did, but two years later, my cataract was still not yet “ripe” for removal.

It was probably for the good that everything was put on hold since it saved me money and aggravation. Besides, the cataract’s deterioration, he said, had been very slow and was not bothering me or disrupting my work as a journalist.

I’m mentioning this because I read this week an article in the New York Times on Lasik – a laser-based procedure that corrects a number of optical problems — running along the same advice to weigh the expected benefits against the possible risks.

The NYT article with a skeptical-sounding title “Blurred vision, burning eyes: This is a Lasik success?” had this teaser: “Some patients who undergo the eye surgery report a variety of side effects. They may persist for years, studies show.”

It said: “Lasik — short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis — eliminates the need for glasses by reshaping the cornea, the clear round dome that covers the front of the eye. The cornea’s function is to focus light on the retina at the back of the eye.

“Lasik surgeons use an ultraviolet laser to reduce the curvature of the cornea for people who are nearsighted, and to accent it for people who are farsighted.

“The surgeon first uses a suction ring to flatten the eye to cut a flap in the cornea, folding the flap back to reveal the middle section, called the stroma. Then the surgeon uses pulses from a computer-controlled laser to destroy a portion of the stroma, and replaces the flap.

“The entire procedure, which costs $4,176 on average, is usually over in less than 15 minutes. It is not covered by most health insurance policies because it is considered a cosmetic or elective procedure.”

I have forwarded the long article (three times as long as this column) to friends who have had Lasik (and Lasik-like) procedures. Readers and eye specialists who want to read it can do so at:

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 17, 2018)

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