Katrina victims get finger-printed and photographed--not everyone is happy

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 11:30 PM EDT

Calling it "a little bit too much Department of Homeland Security," Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, criticized Louisiana's Road Home program for taking fingerprints and photographs of people applying for home loans. Ashdown's organization is known for its harsh criticism of Katrina fraud. Nevertheless, Ashdown said that contractors could accomplish their goals just as easily by asking for multiple forms of identification.

A spokeswoman for ICF International, the company hired by the state to help homeowners determine what kinds of grants and loans they need, called the procedure "minimally intrusive," and a spokesman for the Louisiana Division of Administration said that none of the applicants had complained about being finger-printed and photographed.

One can hardly imagine a homeless person who is living in a cramped trailer, a relative's crowded house or an out-of-state apartment to make waves when she is trying to get help with a loan. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin confirmed that outside of the application facility, people had indeed complained.

"They said it made them feel like a criminal when they were just trying to get help. One guy even said he was so taken aback that he asked them if they wanted some blood also."

ICF International maintains that using these procedures will not only expose fraud, but will cause fraudulent applicants to change their minds and not even bother with applying.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority has not yet made a decision as to whether the finger-printing and photographing will remain in place. The Louisiana ACLU has expressed a concern that the government could use the fingerprints and photographs for purposes unrelated to home loan applications, or that identity theft could be increased because of the process.

One hopes that if the state decides it is best to continue using this procedure, that the people doing the finger-printing and photographing are trained to carry out the procedures in a non-threatening way.

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