Exactly what are “documents?” First thing one thinks of when seeing that word is “undocumented,” a condition of someone without a visa or a Green Card. Or a birth certificate showing he or she was born in the U.S.A. However, usage of “documents” has become so broad, it has reached bizarre levels. Take this story in the New York Times, Feb. 26, 2017, about agents who are “newly emboldened, newly empowered” as a result of the Trump administration’s taking “shackles off” Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s hunt for “unauthorized immigrants.” As an illustration, the Times reports: “At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane.”

The story does not explain what “documents” were accepted. What documents do average citizens carry on a domestic flight? A driver’s license, probably. Would that be a solid document? What about kids? What documents would they have? Would a steely-eyed ICE agent detain them as “undocumented”? The story does not say.

File under the classic spy film line: ” I want to see your papers.”

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