As Gothamist reported on Thursday, a New York-bound Delta Airlines flight from San Francisco was greeted upon reaching the gate on Wednesday by Customs and Border Patrol agents who insisted on checking passengers' "documents" before allowing them to deplane even though this was a domestic flight. The action appears to have come directly as a result of President Trump's order to deport all deportable illegal aliens, and in this case CBP claims they had information about an individual who might have been on the flight who had been "ordered removed by an immigration judge." Gothamist further learned that "the person agents sought had been issued an order of removal based on convictions for domestic assault, driving while impaired, and violation of an order of protection."
VICE News video editor Anne Garrett was a passenger on the flight and tweeted about the incident, providing a picture of the agents checking IDs from the jetway, subsequently garnering a fair amount of social media attention, including from Edward Snowden. This was Delta flight 1583 from SFO to JFK, and fellow passenger Britton Taylor also tweeted his concern over the incident.
My flight from SFO to JFK. We were told we couldn't disembark without showing our "documents." pic.twitter.com/9ugQspTqeX— Anne Garrett (@annediego) February 23, 2017
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
Garrett further explained to VICE News, "People were like, ‘What does that mean? Do I need to show my ticket?’” A flight attendant then clarified the holdup and told passengers they needed to produce a passport or another form of government-issued identification.
Garrett asked "Why do you need to see this?" and she says, "He just took it out of my hand. It’s a tough situation to be in because everybody wants to get off the flight. You don’t want to be the one holding up the line.”
It appears that CBP was acting outside their jurisdiction, and possibly outside the law. Jordan Wells with the New York Civil Liberties Union gave a statement to Gothamist saying, "CBP does not have carte blanche to detain people for questioning without suspicion just because they step off of a domestic flight within 100 miles of a border. It is not an always-and-everywhere police force, and any attempt to expand its operations beyond its authority would raise serious concerns."
CBP offered a document of their authority to Rolling Stone that states only "CBP has the authority to collect passenger name record information on all travelers entering or leaving the United States." They further gave the vaguely threatening, fascist directive, "It is always best to cooperate with law enforcement, so as to expedite your exiting the airport in a timely manner."
Wells offered further advice to Rolling Stone saying, "While one may choose to produce identity documents to avoid further hassle, it is important to remember that in the United States people have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent."
Previously: Customs Agents Checked IDs Of Domestic Flight Passengers At JFK [Gothamist]