One year after becoming U.S. Attorney General, William Barr has finally acted as one by telling President Trump to stop making his job impossible. I’m going to guess that Barr already knows he’s to be fired, since his usefulness to Trump — to help impede the president’s removal from office — has ended, so he might as well unload.
Maybe Barr’s criticism of Trump was his way of saying he’s tired of the job, and he wanted to send a message to Trump to make his job 100 percent impossible by ending it. He wants to be marched out of the White House to freedom like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (and his twin brother).
If only Barr cared so much about ensuring justice was done months ago, when Trump was preventing people in his department from testifying in the impeachment hearings.
Speaking of injustice: Writing for The Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell described “a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas.”
Let’s say you’re an immigrant applying for a special visa status. The new policy requires every single box to be filled out, even if it doesn’t make sense.
Her first example is a woman who applied for a visa status specifically meant for crime victims who assist law enforcement. The visa application was denied because the application she had to fill out required the first, middle and last names of her children, and one of her sons has no middle name. So, that box was left blank. The new rule says the application fails.
Another way to fail the application: the immigrant lives in a stand-alone house. Since a house doesn’t have an apartment number, the box for “Apt #” can’t be filled out.
I think I get what’s going on. Trump only wants money to build his wall. He’s been cutting expenses where there really is need — namely in the bureaucracy that handles immigration processing. To take care of the processing needed, it’s all been automated. The application forms aren’t read by humans. The easiest program to write to assess an application by machine isn’t a cutting-edge artificial intelligence program — it’s the program that says “fail” if any box is left blank.
This happened back when the IRS let computers read our tax returns. My own father had an apoplectic fit, one of the ones where the vein on his forehead popped out, and screamed himself hoarse and turned red in the face, all because the instructions said he could not leave the line asking for dividend income blank, even though he had no dividend income.
After I said to him, “Why don’t you just write $0?” and after he shrieked “Zero is not a number!” repeatedly for an hour, he collapsed, exhausted, in a heap on the living room couch, and said, “Fine. You do it. I quit.” I did his taxes.
In that case, there was an out to filling the box. You only had to embrace the ideas of seventh century Indian mathematics. Read up on Brahmagupta, people.
When it comes to a box that calls for a nonexistent apartment number, I don’t see an easy out. If the dwelling is a house that isn’t divided into apartments, then technically, it’s apartment 1 out of 1 undivided apartment. Therefore, you could logically put “Apt. #1.”
The problem with this is it’s an application for a visa, and it is imperative that whatever address is provided, the United States Postal Service can deliver notices to it. What would the carrier do if the address said “999 Flat Street, Apt 1” and all they find is a single-family house?
Fortunately, it’s not as bad as all that. It turns out, buried in the fine print of the instructions is the provision that answers such as “none,” “n/a” or “unknown” may be accepted. I’m guessing it would probably be OK to give the address of the house as “999 Flat Street, Apt # exists only in an alternate universe.” That should satisfy the postal carrier.
But that doesn’t completely solve the problem; the idiocy gets worse. One application was failed because, in a space providing four lines for the names of four children, they only entered the names of the three they had.
I think it asks way too much of immigrants who are just beginning to learn the idiotic ways of U.S. bureaucracy to expect them to fill out the fourth line in such a case with “Child Not Born Yet, Age Negative Unknown.”
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
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