These are customs agents forcibly checking the ID of every passenger deplaning from Delta flight 1583 tonight at JFK. A domestic flight. pic.twitter.com/fHMgyzCjo5— Britton Taylor (@brittontaylor) February 23, 2017
The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee is seeking answers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about a “troubling incident” this week in which federal agents checked for passengers’ IDs as they exited a domestic flight.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday night, federal agents reportedly stood at the jet bridge and requested government-issued identification from every single traveler before they deplaned a Delta flight from San Francisco, which is an unusual step for domestic flights.
CBP maintains that the agency was assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with trying to locate an individual who was ordered removed by an immigration judge. The person did not end up boarding the scheduled flight to New York, where he was supposed to subsequently board another flight departing the U.S. ICE officers were reportedly en route to meet him at JFK in order to ensure he did not disembark unaccompanied.
But the way in which the incident was handled sparked fierce backlash, especially in the wake of President Trump’s crackdown on immigration earlier this week.
The administration announced a host of changes to immigration enforcement, including hiring of thousands of new Border Patrol officers, a major expansion in the number of people subject to expedited deportation and the establishment of a new office focused on “immigration crime.”
“It is troubling that CBP officers called to assist apparently chose to require passengers, including U.S. citizens, to produce identification before disembarking, rather than confirming whether the individual was on the flight either by visual inspection, checking the passenger manifest, or confirming with ICE that the individual was aboard,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member on Homeland, said in a letter to ICE and CBP on Friday.
“The name, date of birth, and photograph of the individual in question should have been available to CBP, and the Department of Homeland Security and the airline would have had the passenger manifest.”
Thompson wants to know whether the individual had a criminal record and why ICE personnel were going to meet him in New York if ICE officers never placed him on the flight in San Francisco.
He is also seeking written answers by March 10 about why CBP was asked to help; who made the request; and what legal authority the agency has to ask U.S. citizens for identification before disembarking a domestic flight.