America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
A Visit from St. Nicholas to Homeland Security
By Jon Reiner
24 December 2016
United States Border Crossing, Houlton, ME, December 24, 2016
Record of Sworn Statement in Proceedings under Section 235(b)(1) of the Act
I am an Officer of the United States Department of Homeland Security. I am authorized to administer the immigration laws and take sworn statements. I want to take your sworn statement regarding your application for admission to the United States. Until a decision is reached in your case, you will remain in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.
Q. Do you understand what I’ve said to you?
A. Does Santa Claus go, ‘Ho ho ho?’
Q. Is that a ‘yes?’
Q. Are you willing to answer my questions at this time?
A. Could we move it along? I have a very busy night ahead of me. ‘Christmas comes but once a year!’
Q. What is your true and complete name?
A. Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle – just don’t call me ‘The Nickster.’
Q. What is your true date of birth?
A. Seriously? Oh, hell, I left my birth certificate at the North Pole. Do you know where they’ve taken my reindeer?
Q. The animals have been quarantined. The one with the red nose kicked an officer.
A. Quarantined? But, the reindeer are my wings. ‘On, Comet! On, Cupid!’ – ring a bell?
Q. No one should get any ideas about flying away from the United States government. In what country were you born?
A. Turkey, England, Germany. Everybody wants a piece of Ol’ Saint Nick!
Q. Stuff that jolly in a stocking, Tubby! You are being detained for attempting to enter the United States illegally as an undocumented worker, attempting to illegally transport livestock across the United States border, and attempting to bring commercial goods into the country without authorization in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
A. You’re going to hit me with NAFTA?
Q. What is your purpose for entry into the United Sates on this day?
A. To bring presents to all the good girls and boys.
Q. How will you be compensated for delivery of these goods?
A. Generally, it’s cookies and warm milk. Sometimes, a glass of whiskey – a short one – and buttered popcorn. Who doesn’t love a good nightcap?
Q. What is the estimated value of this compensation?
A. Immediate gratitude.
Q. Answer the question, Grandpa.
A. What do cookies cost these days? Where I come from, we don’t use money. Does a trillion zillion sound right?
Q. Have you reported that income to the United States Internal Revenue Service?
A. You’re beginning to irritate me. Are there any chocolate macaroons in that cabinet?
Q. No. What is the purpose of the Naughty and Nice list?
A. It helps me to keep track of who’s been a good girl or boy. Who’s getting toys, games, theater tickets – the good stuff – and who’s going to find a lump of coal in his stocking. Between you and me, the coal is really more of a threat these days. The whole alternative energy thing.
Q. As it pertains to the Naughty and Nice list, have you been engaged in monitoring the behavior and communications of United States citizens without proper consent?
A. I think I hear the reindeer wailing. Coming, Blitzen!
Q. In order to determine who’s Naughty or Nice, what is your method of obtaining the supporting information?
A. I watch what the girls and boys do all year. Have they been good to their parents and elders? Have they been well-behaved in school? Have they been kind to animals? There’s no end to what I see.
Q. Do you have the legal authorization and security clearance necessary for this activity as stated in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and its Sunset Extension Acts?
A. You know, Officer Trammel, it occurs to me we’ve been going about this business all wrong. It would be a shame for a dedicated, honorable civil servant such as you to accidentally wind up on the Naughty List, don’t you think? It can take years to get off the list, and I’d hate to have to return that beautiful wood-handled set of grill tongs on my sleigh back to the workshop.
Q. Listen, Red, I’m warning you, it is illegal to attempt to bribe an official of the United States government.
A. My heavens, I would never dream of trying to corrupt you. That would get me a whole bucketful of West Virginia gold. But, George, midnight’s fast approaching. Throughout the land, Christmas carols are being sung. Children are setting out non-income-bearing cookies and milk. Rudolph’s nose is glowing in the detention room. Imagine being known for eternity as the man who “protected” the border from Christmas. All the good Homeland Security Officers who put in for the day off would be so disappointed. Whaddya say? Let’s work something out before mankind reigns down righteous fury on both of us. Get me outta here in the next ten minutes, and there will be an apron under your tree to go with the tongs.
Q. (Nervously) I have a supervisor.
A. Don’t you worry about Ms. Thorndyke. Leave her to me.
Q. OK, Claus. But, give me a minute. I’ll need a different form.
Jon Reiner is the James Beard
Award-winning author of the memoir The
Man Who Couldn’t Eat and the director of the award-winning
documentary film Tree Man. His work has appeared in Esquire,
The Atlantic, The
New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post,
been nominated for a National Magazine Award and recorded for NPR.