Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Freedom of Information Act

I've been dragging my feet in filing my American citizenship for the sole reason that one question is incredibly difficult to answer on the form. The question is - "since you received your permanent residence card, itemize your travel outside the Unitied States". This section of the form included exit and re-entry dates, where and duration. I would think with the exit and re-entry dates you could figure out the duration without me having to fill it in, but hey, it's the government so ours not to question why.

I received my permanent resident alien card (you didn't know I was an alien did you) in December of 2001. I was thrilled. Little did I know that I should have been keeping track of every time I left the country? Throughout the past 10 years I've gone in and out countless times sometimes more than once a day. This was simply a matter of geography as most of my relatives live just over the border from the US (see map insert).

As you can see by the picture the shortest path from Winnipeg (Canada) to my Gramma's house in the little rural hamlet of Morson, NW Ontario is through an area close to the NorthWest Angle - the US. Don't get me started on this geographic abomination....

So how was I to determine the ins and outs to/from the US? After contacting United Airlines whom I was a high status frequent flyer for many years and fruitlessly asking for my statistics an epiphany hit me - The Freedom of Information Act would save me! Herein called the FOIA. I wrote away and filed a request - 2 months later I received a note back that it was filed incorrectly. Now since the form was simple and my request straightforward I couldn't figure out how I screwed it up. I called them. That was a waste of time. You get a different group that basically tells you that your only contact with the FOIA people is by mail or email. Naturally I had emailed them first. After about a week of frustration I received an email from someone stating that they had re-submitted my request and here was the new tracking number. Two months later I received an envelope in the mail. I was so excited - finally! The envelope contained one completely illegible copy of my passport (I think). Useless. This all was somewhere around October 2010.

Last week I received a CD in the mail from the FOIA. Shocked I ripped it open and popped it in to the drive only to discover 2 documents on it. One from the FOIA people telling me that they forwarded my request to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the other from CBP stating that they felt the request was answered with the original response from FOIA. Confused and hopeless I surrendered. Fine, I'll just renew my green card.

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