In July, Breitbart issued an exclusive report that alleged that the Transportation Security Administration was allowing illegal immigrants to travel on airline flights without proper identification. According to the story, Border Patrol officers claimed to have witnessed TSA agents permitting illegal aliens to board domestic airline flights with only a Notice to Appear, a federal citation for illegally crossing the border. To determine whether these allegations were true that TSA had allowed illegal immigrants on airliners, Examiner contacted the National Border Patrol Council, a union for Border Patrol officers, and the TSA.
For those unfamiliar with a Notice to Appear, also called Form I-862, Nolo.com explains that it is a charging document that signals the initiation of removal proceedings and means that the recipient must appear in immigration court. The document lists the recipient’s name, aliases, address, alien registration number and date of birth, but does not include a photograph and is easy to duplicate. A sample Form I-862 is available on the Justice Department’s website.
In response to a query from Examiner, the TSA Media Team issued a statement via email which declared, “A Notice to Appear, issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), is not an acceptable form of ID at the TSA checkpoint.”
The TSA went on to explain that “for Mexican nationals without a passport who are returning to Mexico” an alternate procedure exists. The Mexican national can apply for a Certificate of Presumptive Nationality of Mexico (CPNM), which is issued by the Mexican government. The CPNM includes a photograph of the traveler and the TSA’s Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC) authenticates the certificate before the traveler is allowed through the TSA checkpoint.
The CPNM must be provided by the Mexican government in PDF form 24 hours prior to the flight and the passenger must undergo enhanced screening. The travel must be completed on the same day and Mexico must be the final destination. According to TSA, about 1,900 CPNMs are issued annually.
The same IVCC can also verify the identities of U.S. citizens who have lost or forgotten their identification. The TSA website lists other acceptable forms of identification.
Shawn Moran, media contact for the National Border Patrol Council, stands by the original allegations made by Hector Garza, a spokesman for Local 2455. Moran told Examiner that Border Patrol officers observed TSA agents allowing illegal aliens to board flights in Laredo, Tex. with only a Notice to Appear as identification. When asked if these were international flights that would return the aliens to their countries of origin, Moran answered, “These were solely domestic flights.”
Moran was unaware of the CPNM procedure that was touted by the TSA. He noted, “At the time our agents observed this, there was no procedure. There may be now.”
A crucial distinction is that the CPNM procedure, according to the TSA, is for foreign nationals “returning to their own country.” The claim made by the Border Patrol officers is that foreign nationals were flying, not only without a CPNM, but on domestic flights traveling to points within the United States. If true, this would not be permissible under the TSA policy.
Moran claims that the “TSA flat out lied when the story broke” about the policy of allowing aliens to fly with a Notice to Appear. “They have since changed the policy,” he says.
When asked if there is evidence to the claim beyond the testimony of TSA officers, Moran answers, “I’m sure there is, but it would all reside with TSA. They wouldn’t have gone out of their way to clarify this if it wasn’t happening.”
The smoking gun in the allegations is a letter from the TSA to Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.). The letter, first reported by the Gateway Pundit and dated August 7, 2014, explicitly says that passengers with only a Form I-862 can fly under certain conditions, such as with confirmation “that the I-862 was issued to an individual with the name provided”:
“If a passenger can only present a Form I-862, TSA will attempt to establish the passenger’s identity through DHS partner Components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If other DHS Components are able to provide corroborating information (such as that the I-862 was issued to an individual with the name provided) to permit TSA to verify an individual’s identity when taken together with all other information available, the passenger is permitted into the screening checkpoint to undergo screening.”
The full letter can be viewed on the website of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
When Examiner asked the TSA about the letter to Marchant, a spokesman replied, “The letter is very clear regarding the other verification methods used. The letter speaks for itself.”
After receiving the TSA letter, Rep. Marchant introduced the VALID (Verified and Legitimate ID) Act on Sept. 10. The bill would “prohibit the TSA from accepting Notice to Appear Forms as valid personal identification for clearing airport security,” according to Marchant.
It appears that the TSA was allowing illegal aliens to board domestic airliners with only a Notice to Appear at one time. The TSA has apparently now changed that policy and requires further documentation from the alien’s home country. If Rep. Marchant’s bill becomes law, this change would be made permanent.
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