Thursday, June 21, 2018

Homeland Security clears passport issues

     AND ONE MORE THING… is a running social commentary on a wide variety of subjects. Occasionally there is a story that is open-ended. This week I want to tie together loose ends. 
    Whatever happened to my travel frustrations?

    If you recall, back in December 2017 I wrote a column, “Searching for Answers to a Travel Nightmare,” about my hassles at airport TSA lines and customs points all over the world.
     I decided that I was going to tackle my problem starting with Homeland Security. 
    It’s hard work advocating when it’s on your own behalf.       
    People misunderstand your intentions, too.  I heard about it from readers after the column went online.
     Someone criticized me for whining too much. I shouldn’t single myself out as special when national security is at stake. 
     A second person reminded me that there are bigger fish to fry. Apparently, he believed that I needed a life and baited me for an answer. He doesn’t know much about me from that comment.
     Another said that I must obey the laws like any other citizen. 
     On the other hand, I did have supporters who agreed with me and told me that if they were in my place, they might have quit flying all together. That’s going to the other extreme. 
    “Be persistent” was the best piece of advice I received, and it was from another LCN columnist. 
     I started sorting things out. I went to Homeland Security’s website, and after scrolling down, I found the forms. No government agency makes that task easy as if it expects you to get frustrated and quit before you start.
    After filling out detailed boxes about specific conversations with customs officials going back five years as best as I could remember, I sent the packet away. There was no way of telling if my answers would be sufficient. I had never kept a written log of my problems like a truly efficient person since I never dreamed it would come to this point.
     Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much. 
     6 weeks later I had a reply letter from HS in its best legalize – I read it over 3 times for comprehension - informing me that they had noted my issues and would make the necessary adjustments on my passport.  HS neither denied, nor confirmed anything. I had a redress number, too, to use with future airline reservations.
     There was something to my concerns and I wasn’t exaggerating.
     I have been on the African continent this spring traveling back and forth between four countries. I purchased visas on the spot using crisp American dollars and I endured hideously slow lines in ineffective air conditioning. 
     Officials carefully read every little detail about my travel history standing tall with their full authority to make or break my admittance. They looked back and forth between my documents on the computer – most of the time the system was down - and me. 
     Each time my passport was stamped with a firm welcoming declaration, I could take my mind off the technicalities of travel and onto the real reasons for my visit.
     By making it through each point of entry no differently than any other American citizen, I had achieved my goal.
     I can let my breath out now. My record has been cleared and my credentials are intact.