The news that people who want to obtain entry visas to the U.S.A. will have to undergo a fingerprint identity check doesn't really come as much of a surprise. Estonians are among the first people to be subjected to this newest and most rigorous method of screening visa applicants, but the procedure will be used by all U.S. embassies by October 2004.
America is currently in its most paranoid frame of mind since the early days of the Cold War, when everyone and anyone could be denounced as a closet communist. To a degree, this is understandable. It has been painfully proven that America really is at risk from attack, and it is only natural that it should take measures to protect itself in every way it can. Many of the conspirators involved in the Sept. 11 attack were illegally living in America, having entered the country by using false passports and visas. And with the current situation in Iraq seemingly spiraling out of control, no one would dare rule out future attacks on U.S. soil.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that there are some 5 million people living illegally in the country, with the number growing by around 275,000 people a year. The U.S. administration has justified the introduction of fingerprinting visa applicants by describing it as a security measure designed to counter the threat of terrorism. This may be so, but the move still leaves one with an uneasy feeling. Fingerprinting is immediately associated with criminality in most people's minds. The assumption is that anyone trying to enter the U.S.A. is a potential terrorist.
This current climate of fear is ultimately detrimental to everyone, and no more so than to the many people legitimately wanting to enter the country. While no one would dispute the fact that America has every right to police its borders as rigorously as possible, it must also try to overcome its siege mentality. It's a mystery why a country like Estonia should have the dubious honor of being one of the first countries to have its citizens fingerprinted.