Lawmakers seek to block airport pre-clearance in Abu Dhabi

A group of lawmakers has introduced legislation to block the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) plan to establish a a pre-clearance facility in the United Arab Emirates.

The department is considering establishing a facility at the airport in the UAE's capital city, Abu Dhabi, from which travelers flying to the U.S. could be "pre-cleared" and treated as domestic passengers when they reach customs checkpoints after landing.

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The amendment says the proposal "would provide preferential treatment to government-owned and foreign airlines at the expense of U.S. taxpayer dollars, domestic airlines, and U.S. workers. 

"At a time when domestic CBP staffing levels are inadequate, causing excessive wait times, DHS should not expand its mission size and footprint," the amendment concludes.

Pre-clearance facilities have been established at airports in countries such as Canada, Ireland and parts of the Caribbean. Aviation industry groups, which have opposed the Abu Dubai facility, have said the post in the UAE capital would be different because its airport is not served by U.S. airlines.

Homeland Security has said previously that it selects pre-clearance sites to make international travel and commerce easier.

"Pre-clearance is the process by which CBP officers stationed abroad screen and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the United States before they leave a foreign port," the agency says on its website. 

"CBP officers do, however, retain the authority to inspect these passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States should it be warranted."

The agency has not commented publicly on the pushback it is receiving for the proposed Abu Dhabi facility.

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