I’ve seen “terminal” too. Its both comedy and not. It is an ironic depiction of what happens when a bureaucracy loses sight of the human base to a “problem” and the greey areas between rules, and sticks to “rules are rules”. It happens not just in the US, but in every country. I am experiencing a very frustrating example of it myself currently in the Netherlands.
“Terminal” seems to be inspired by an actual case of someone spending over 16 years (!) in an airport transfer area, because of bureaucracy and falling into the grey area between the rules. That was in France, and it concerned an Iranian man, Merhan Karimi Nasseri (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merhan_Karimi_Nasseri for his story).