The decision is, as always, primarily motivated and held aloft by fears of terrorism. USCIS simply can’t conceive of a well-motivated decision to leave the US for a period of more than six months. The unspoken assumption is that any permanent resident spending more than six months out of country is clearly bent on doing evil. Fingerprinting before reentry is a measure designed to prevent permanent residents from leaving the country for terrorist training. It’s also designed to prevent an “identity switch” on a legal green card, which would allow known or suspected terrorists to utilize the clean records of their countrymen to slip stealthily under US radar as they “re” enter the country on someone else’s green card.
Critics allege that the new policy is at root ineffective, and-worse-appears to be a simple grab for money, with the fee for fingerprinting and reentry application sitting pretty at $80.00. Further, it requires permanent residents to be almost prescient in order to handle the mountain of paperwork with any efficiency-and it’s simply impossible for them to know in advance when relatives overseas will fall ill, or jobs will transfer, or universities will accept them.
Of course, the most obvious criticism of this measure, and all measures that attempt to combat crime with paperwork, is the simple fact that criminals are, well, so criminal. Those who are bent on violence, destruction, and damage certainly aren’t concerned with filing proper paperwork to stay out of trouble, which means that the only permanent residents inconvenienced by this new measure are the ones we should be actively recruiting-the type that actually care about doing things right.