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Cancer Patient Held At Airport For Missing Fingerprints 323

A 62-year-old man visiting his relatives in the US was held for four hours by immigration officials after they could not detect his fingerprints because of a cancer drug he was taking. The man was prescribed capecitabine, a drug used to treat cancers in the head, neck, breast, and stomach. Some of the drug's side-effects include chronic inflammation of the palms or soles of the feet, which can cause the skin to peel or bleed. "This can give rise to eradication of fingerprints with time," explained Tan Eng Huat, senior consultant in the medical oncology department at Singapore's National Cancer Center. "Theoretically, if you stop the drug, it will grow back, but details are scanty. No one knows the frequency of this occurrence among patients taking this drug and nobody knows how long a person must be on this drug before the loss of fingerprints," he added.

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Cancer Patient Held At Airport For Missing Fingerprints

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  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:01PM (#28127893) Journal
    We're from the government, and we're here to help you!
    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:22PM (#28129515)

      We're from the government, and we're here to help you!

      Uh, what's that got to do with anything? When would that have been said during this exchange? I mean, customs officials don't say "we're from the government" and they DEFINITELY don't say "We're here to help you."

    • Bullshit.

      The scariest words in the English language are "I'm just doing my job." That doesn't sound so good in German either.

      Besides, immigration officials aren't there to help anyone. Just ask the tourists who don't come to the US anymore.

    • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:08PM (#28130207) Homepage

      What... you'd rather the US government got out of the business of border security? Wow. Even the craziest right-wing loonies admit that the government's job is to protect the borders...

  • by castironpigeon ( 1056188 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:02PM (#28127923)
    Why think when you can follow protocol?
    • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@gma i l . c om> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:17PM (#28128253)

      Why think when you can follow protocol?

      I think we're better off this way.

      • by Ceiynt ( 993620 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:35PM (#28128677)
        Protocol, and current law, requires fingerprinting for incoming foreigners. I think DNA should be a good alternative if fingerprints are not available. I wonder what the protocol is for a double arm amputee. What if they had just said, "Oh well, you look sick and you won't do anything, so we'll let you in."
        What if they find out he's on cancer drugs because he's some sort of commie biochem guy and is now sick from that. He's dying and wants to do damage to America. He blows up a school. Oh, well, after a few years they'll find he wasn't printed coming into the country. Parents of kids killed sue because protocol wasn't followed, allowing a dangerous wanted person in the country, just because he was sick.
        Sickness does not beget special treatment. A plan B should be in place for this sort of thing.
    • by treeves ( 963993 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:37PM (#28128723) Homepage Journal

      Your sig is right on.
      Why is four hours a huge deal? I've waited longer than that due to weather, airlines overbooking, and other reasons. As long as they treated him decently for the four hours this should not be a big issue.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:03PM (#28130125) Homepage Journal

        When government officials detain you for whatever they want, and nobody thinks its a big deal, then truly, the terrorists have won.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:31PM (#28130579)
          You are required to give fingerprints when you come to the US. The US is open and clear about that. This man entered the US without fingerprints. That would be roughly equivelent to a returning American without any identification. Would you plaster up "innocent American held for hours" or "idiot with no ID got what he deserved"? He traveled to the US missing a required item, fingerprints. That he was held for a short time (and yes, 4 hours is short when you are essentially in violation of US law, even with good reason) and released when his information could be checked out and verified. That's the system working. There are lots of things to complain about (like fingerprints being required in the first place) but to hold this up as an example of a failure of the system is absurd. To state that they held him for "no reason" is absurd. They had a good reason and held him no longer than necessary to address the issue.
    • by Frequency Domain ( 601421 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:52PM (#28129007)

      Why think when you can follow protocol?

      These are low-wage worker bees. The one thing they know for sure is that they won't get into trouble if they follow protocol. Do you really expect them to think? I'm not saying I like the result, but it's clear to me that if a TSA worker has a choice between your discomfort resulting from following protocol, and his if he breaks protocol and the outcome catches somebody's attention, he'll stick with protocol every time.

    • by Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:09PM (#28129279) Homepage Journal

      Why get paid when you can think?

      I'm guessing that you've never had the fun of working a menial job.

    • by darthwader ( 130012 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:49PM (#28129917) Homepage

      Why not do both? Protocol is: get fingerprint. If you cannot get a fingerprint, then you should use your discretion and initiative, e.g.:
      - carefully and thoroughly interview the visitor.
      - understand and verify the person's reason for not having a fingerprint.
      - understand why the person is visiting the country.
      - determine whether this person is likely to be a risk or not.
      - decide if the person should be allowed into the country despite the lack of fingerprints.

      If the border guards didn't want to think, they would have just deported him right away. They were willing to think. They did think. They interviewed him, thought about what he said,possibly spent some time verifying what he said, maybe consulted other people, and in the end they decided he was an acceptable risk. The process took 4 hours. It seems reasonable to me.

      I think this shows a system working perfectly. The normal case (over 99% of the time, I would guess) is a few seconds for a fingerprint. The exceptions are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with a thorough interview and careful consideration (not a stupid snap judgment).

    • America: A Dialogue (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:33PM (#28131353)

      Based on a true story and submitted for your critical evaluation, dear reader, I present "America: A Dialogue".

      Alice: I can't believe people want to bring the 9/11 terrorists into the US.

      Bob: Well, it's the right thing to do. We need to stop torturing them and give them fair trials.

      Alice: But not here. They're too dangerous to bring into the country.

      Bob:: If our prisons can hold Timothy McVeigh, they can hold anyone. And they're being tortured over there.

      Alice: McVeigh is one thing, but if we hold Al Qaeda terrorists, their supporters will come down through Canada and bail them out of Fort Leavenworth. I think they're just too dangerous to keep here, and an island is much more secure anyway.

      Bob: But our soldiers are behaving like monsters and torturing these people.

      Alice: They deserve it anyway. They attacked us on 9/11. And the real monsters are on top*. Don't criticize our troops who are just trying to do their job. It must hard dealing with those people.

      Bob: We don't know they've done anything. They've never been tried. And our troops are responsible for what they do. Didn't we decide that at Nuremberg?

      Alice: We know they attacked us. These things happen during war. They happen all the time. My friend's father told me of some nasty stuff that happened in Korea. This is no big deal.

      Bob: [dramatic facepalm, exit stage left]

      [Curtain drops, Alice appears from behind it]

      Alice: I'm so glad we elected someone who can rehabilitate our image in the world.

      [House lights]

      * Note the slight improvement over the past few years

  • Can't be the first (Score:3, Interesting)

    by georgenh16 ( 1531259 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:04PM (#28127945) Journal
    How does someone with their extremities amputated get through an airport?
  • by mofag ( 709856 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:05PM (#28127971)

    I always feel so welcome entering the US :)

    Seriously though, how often do border guards ever catch anyone? All that frisking and undressing and do they EVER catch anyone? I feel certain that if they ever did, it would be all over the media. As evidenced here, this pointless pompous nonsense reaches the pinacle of its expression on the way into the US.

    • by RockMFR ( 1022315 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:07PM (#28128033)
      Yes, they catch shampoo smugglers all the time.
    • by evil_aar0n ( 1001515 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:17PM (#28128247)

      Not the same thing, but there _were_ those "mental giants" that recently tried to blow up a temple in NYC, and shoot down a military plane with a rocket launcher. Thing is, these geniuses didn't realize that they were being scammed by the Feds the entire time: the "C4" wasn't real, nor was the "rocket."

      Ok, they had intent, and their motive was certainly questionable. But their means were non-existent, and they weren't even smart enough to realize that. At best, these punks should be called "unsocial retards," because they don't quite reach the bar for serious criminals.

      Didn't matter: the papers were all full of chest pounding Feds congratulating themselves on catching these "terrorists."

      • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:30PM (#28128569)

        Sure, they were dumb. Most criminals are. Most terrorists aren't exactly the sharpest marbles in the sack, either. How dumb do you have to be for someone to convince you that blowing yourself up or flying an airplane into a building is a good idea and will help you achieve your goals?

        However, they only failed because the supplier they found was an undercover Fed rather than someone who would supply actual weapons. As for reality, the rocket was real; it was just disarmed. As for the C-4, it's probably possible to supply fake C-4 that behaves just like the real thing except it won't actually explode. It's not surprising that they didn't test the stuff; they had no reason to, believing it to be authentic, and testing C-4 is likely to attract a lot of attention.

        The bottom line is, they *are* terrorists. They did have a concrete plan to carry out attacks. They attempted to carry out that plan. They were caught by good undercover police work. To try and say they aren't terrorists because they were arrested before they could blow anything up is like trying to say somebody isn't a drug dealer because he gets arrested after selling to a narc.

        • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:10PM (#28131089) Journal

          Most terrorists aren't exactly the sharpest marbles in the sack, either

          Sharp marbles? That explains it! No wonder this guy's got worn down fingerprints! Give him the round smooth marbles we use to use when I was a kid and it'll all be fine.

        • by evil_aar0n ( 1001515 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @07:28PM (#28132013)

          You miss my point. This was more like a boxing match between someone incapable of defending himself and a heavyweight champion. The champ won - surprise! - and then bragged about it.

          Calling these guys terrorists is about as accurate as calling the Keystone Kops "law enforcement officials." Put it this way: the Feds weren't afraid of supplying this material to these guys and letting them loose. If they were potentially a real threat, the Feds would've picked them up well before they even got close to the targets. But they let them go through with their plot, parking the car out front, scaring the bejeezuz out of the neighborhood, etc. Grab your popcorn! We're watching Security Theater!!

          I s'pose picking the low-hanging fruit still gets the fruit, but it's nothing to crow about.

    • by joebok ( 457904 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:17PM (#28128249) Homepage Journal

      Actually, yes:

      http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2001/1125/cover.html [nwsource.com]

      An alert border guard caught a guy trying to get across the border with a bunch of bomb stuff. This case with the finger prints doesn't sound like a case of anybody being "alert" - but for my money, training people to detect and investigate is far better than the ridiculous security theater we usually see - taking off shoes and having jars of plum jam confiscated.

  • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:06PM (#28128007)
    When I was getting my CCW permit, which requires fingerprinting, there was an old man there. The police fingerprinters were failing to get fingerprints from him, I assumed because of his old wrinkled skin. Since he legally cannot get a CCW permit without fingerprints on file, he was basically being discriminated against on the basis that the fancy fingerprinting machine that the police station bought happened to not do the correct song and dance when he put his fingers on it.

    It's similar to the situation with breathalyzers where if the machine beeps or not can be the difference between you going to jail or driving home. Our judges have been replaced by robotic imposters, and I imagine it will get worse in the future.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:07PM (#28128015) Journal
    Once I saw this movie, and some policemen caught Santa Claus, and he had snowflake fingerprints. Seriously. You should see it.
  • by RandoX ( 828285 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:08PM (#28128035)

    Terrible New Terrorism Drug Helps Terrorists Evade Identification And Cause More Terrible Terror.

  • by alphaFlight ( 26589 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:10PM (#28128117)

    My wife had to get a special exemption to sit for the bar exam because the state police couldn't take her fingerprints, which were necessary for conducting the required criminal background check. She has no idea why her fingerprints are virtually nonexistent.

  • Oh, piff (Score:2, Informative)

    by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:11PM (#28128129) Homepage
    This is all just minutiae, people!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minutiae [wikipedia.org]
  • Obviously (Score:5, Funny)

    by TibbonZero ( 571809 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nobbiT)> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:12PM (#28128145) Homepage Journal
    We must ban anti-cancer drugs. The terrorists might use them. Terrorists could hurt children. Think of the children!
  • 4 hours? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anonieuweling ( 536832 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:18PM (#28128279)
    As if the prints would return this quick?
    How stupid can you be if such a specific case takes 4 hours?
    DHS senior personnel thinks that they NEED fingerprints to let someone enter? [fascist state proof #1]
    DHS is unsure if they can send him back because there are no prints.
    [cluelessness proof #1] Etc.
    Of course the man didn't tell them he was taking medicine etc.
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:22PM (#28128383) Homepage Journal

    In an episode of the original Adam West "Batman" series, the caped crusader was performing a high-tech fingerprint scan on all the citizens leaving some sort of event. Along comes a long-nosed fellow -- obviously The Penguin, since his disguise was about as effective as Superman's "Clark Kent" cover. Batman attempts the fingerprint scan, but the man has no fingerprints.

    "Holy Nonsequitur, Batman!" the intrepid Robin exclaims, "it's plastic!"

    "Yes, I believe that's what the surgeon used," replies the ersatz innocent civilian.

    Batman lets him go, but confides to Robin that he knows it's the Penguin -- but now that the dastardly enemy thinks he's slipped the trap, he will now lead them to the bad guys' secret lair.

    Obviously, the TSA should have done the same with this guy. Then, they could have found the entire Al Qaida leadership, probably meeting in a rakishly tilted room, behind the one-way mirror in a seedy magic shop.

  • by Alzheimers ( 467217 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:27PM (#28128499)

    He should have said that the drugs were for his Goat!

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:32PM (#28128627) Homepage
    Reminds me of an old episode of Battlestar Galactica 1980 [wikipedia.org] where the young heroes got busted by the sheriff and accused of filing away their fingerprints to avoid identification. The flying motorcycles were cool.
  • by Calibax ( 151875 ) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:34PM (#28128655)

    I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, and after surgery I did the chemotherapy thing. One of my drugs was Xeloda, which is the marketing name for capecitabine, the drug this guy is taking.

    The problem mentioned in TFA is Hand-Foot Syndrome (HFS) or palmer-palmer erythrodysesthesia. Capecitabine causes redness, swelling, a rash, and burning pain in the hands and feet - and sometimes elsewhere such as joints and genitals. In bad cases the skin peels and you get blisters, ulcers and sores in the affected areas. This is because some of the drug leaks out of the capillaries and damages the surrounding tissues, and you have a lot of capillaries close to the surface in the hands and feet.

    There are drugs (Vitamin B6, corticosteroids, dimethyl sulfoxide) that can help sometimes - but they didn't for me. Walking became extremely painful, and my hands were constantly hot and painful, although I didn't lose my fingerprints as far as I know. Everything returned to normal some months after chemotherapy completed.

    I really sympathize with this guy. Dealing with immigration headaches while having bad hand-foot syndrome would have been a total hassle for me. Even standing up for a few minutes was torture.

    • by A Friendly Troll ( 1017492 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:01PM (#28129143)

      Sorry to hear that you had health issues :( I hope you are okay now.

    • Sense of touch (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:33PM (#28130619) Homepage

      I wrote about this in my cancer blog [blogspot.com] a few months back:

      I lost some feeling in my hands and feet due to the various chemotherapy drugs I've taken over the past five years. I also lost my fingerprints thanks to Xeloda, which irritates the palms and soles in a reaction called hand-foot syndrome [chemocare.com].

      When I went to Disney World in 2007 I found that the entry gates use fingerprint scanners to ensure that the person using an electronic ticket is the same one who registered it. The scanner choked when I tried to register and an attendant had to override it. I bet that enough of the population has similar issues that it's in their training manual. I suppose it also means that people like me are a headache for anyone else trying to use fingerprints for identification.

      Some of the numbness is nerve damage, particularly from the platinum-based drugs. The nerves do slowly heal, so I am getting some feeling back. In fact, now that I've been off of systemic chemo for four months I have enough feeling to realize that I lost more than I appreciated. Except for a period after a massive dose in 2005, the numbness hasn't been enough to interfere with tasks like holding a pen or buttoning a shirt. It's just been a dullness of sensation.

      Today I learned that there's another explanation. According to research published in Science [sciencemag.org], fingerprints enhance the sense of touch. The ridges vibrate as they encounter bumps on a surface and transmit stronger signals to the nerve endings. So part of my numbness to texture is not just the nerve damage but the lack of fingerprints. I wonder if they, too, will regrow over time.

  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:39PM (#28128765) Journal

    ... entering the country. What nonsense!

  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:47PM (#28128917) Journal

    From a medical and oncological perspective, this is very interesting stuff.

    From a DHS/security/evil overlord angle, it's absolutely nothing at all.

    The guy was screened routinely. He failed the screening for an extraordinary reason, and was kept for four measly hours, until they could parse and process the exception.

    That's it. They didn't strip-search him, they didn't tase him, they didn't abuse him or violate his rights. They came across an exception, dealt with it, and moved on.

    Or would you rather spend all day making up SHOCKING headlines for articles like, "Police do their job. Bring in suspect for questioning, and then release him after innocence proven."

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:07PM (#28129259)
    Usually, you don't want to take anticancer drugs unless you have cancer.

    If you want to get rid of your fingerprints, there's always pineapple juice. Much less poisonous.

  • by KreAture ( 105311 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:29PM (#28129651)

    My sister has Nethertons Syndrome. It's relevant implication for this case is that her skin is replaced faster than normal. This causes her to have weak if any fingerprints.

    When visiting Florida for christmas last year my entire family was held back for about half an hour. Only after the "security person" had consulted his superior, and that superior had consulted yet another superior, were this 16 year old obvious thread to national security allowed to pass into America. They also tried to wipe her fingertips with alcohol. Very pleasant on what you can compare to a first to second degree burn.

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