In the wake of Donald Trump’s stalled immigration reforms, the actions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are receiving heightened scrutiny. News broke Thursday that agents in New York asked domestic flight passengers for proof of citizenship.
The agency has acknowledged their check point, though they deny that it had anything to do with the Trump administration’s immigration reforms.
Two CBP agents in John F. Kennedy Airport asked passengers arriving on Delta Flight 1583 from San Francisco to show identification after Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked for assistance locating an individual believed to have been on the flight.
A CBP spokesperson noted the passenger had received a deportation order after being convicted of domestic assault, driving while impaired, and violating a protective order.
Passengers on the plane took to social media and posted images of the incident, and many believed the search was tied to a blanket effort to deport illegals immigrants. The agency clearly had a name, a description of the man, and all of the information they would have needed to single him out from a limited number of airline passengers.
The Chicago Tribune spoke to Jordan Wells, a staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union about the incident. “They’ll occasionally pull someone off of a flight, or officers will come on and make an arrest,” Wells said. “It’s a much more surgical thing than setting up a dragnet. That’s what is so alarming about the way that this played out.”
The target of CBP’s search was reportedly not on the plane. There’s no word yet on the status of any of the other passengers. It isn’t known if anyone questioned would qualify as an undocumented immigrant, or what would have happened to them in that circumstance.
“Is this a mere request to see identification?” Wells said. “Would they have been detained but for them showing ID? Because then it’s no longer a consensual encounter and the Constitution enters the equation.”
“A DHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” writes the Tribune, “… said ‘when we’re asked by our law enforcement partners to assist in searching for a person of interest, we are able to, and will, help. This isn’t a new policy or related to any new executive order.'”