According to an exclusive email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation, Republican lawmakers are concerned about illegal migrants traveling on commercial flights across the country without their identification.
Email revealed that TSA’s national vetting centre processed more than 42,000 non-citizens, and non-U.S. citizens requesting document validations between the beginning of the year to mid-October.
Lance Gooden, a Republican Texas Representative, has been investigating the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as part of an investigation into whistleblower documentation that alleges an operation to transport migrants across the country using standard documentation.
Gooden along with Republican Reps. David McKinley from West Virginia and Mary Miller, Illinois wrote a formal note on Nov. 15, asking TSA Administrator David Pekoske about possible national security consequences of allowing illegal migrants “without proper ID.”
TSA has not yet responded to the letter. However, DCNF received an email from the agency to Gooden about clearing migrants to gain access to secure areas at the airport.
EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans Demand Answers From TSA Over Whistleblower Packet Showing Operation To Move Migrants Into US— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) November 17, 2021
Read more here: https://t.co/HlaaPwUf8U
According to an email, TSA stated that it accepts other forms of identification such as a Notice To Appear (NTA). Before obtaining an NTA, or another Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE)/U.S. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), border agents would have taken photographs of migrant biometrics and ran their fingerprints through the immigration and NCIC databases. CBP states that border agents will only process names that match biometric data.
Gooden informed the DCNF that CBP agents advised him on a recent visit to the southern border that NTAs weren’t sufficient documents to verify a traveler’s identity.
Gooden stated “When I asked a border patrol officer about TSA allowing migrants to fly with no identification, they told me a Notice to Appear is not sufficient identification and they often have to take migrants at their word that they are who they say they are. TSA and non-profit groups are putting millions of Americans travelling for Christmas at risk by allowing these unknown and unvetted migrants to board planes and fly across the country.”
TSA states that there is an alternative method of identifying individuals for screening.
“The TDC [TSA’s Travel Document Checker] typically verifies the traveler’s identity using an acceptable form of ID (e.g., government-issued IDs such as driver licenses or passports not expired more than one year),” TSA said in the email. “In coordination with its DHS counterparts, TSA has also identified alternate forms of ID for use in special circumstances at the checkpoint, circumstances such as non-U.S. citizens or non-nationals who do not have an acceptable form of ID.”
They said: “For travelers in normal circumstances who lack acceptable or alternate forms of ID, TSA calls the National Transportation Vetting Center (NTVC), which attempts to verify a traveler’s identity by using the individual’s information along with information from various government and commercial databases.”
The TDC searches for the alien ID number of migrants who are traveling with DHS/ICE/CBP documents such as an NTA. TSA uses two methods to validate documents: it can use the CBP One phone app to search for the individual in a CBP databank or it can call the NTVC to search for an immigration document number and match it with the traveler’s name.
Additional screenings are provided for migrants who have alternative forms of identification when they travel.
According to the email, if a migrant’s identity can’t be established using an accepted form of ID, it is up the airport’s Federal Security Director to decide whether they will be allowed through TSA.
The email stated that “The FSD has discretion to determine that no level of screening is acceptable to mitigate the risk and, as a result, the individual must be denied access to an airport’s sterile area,”
According to the email, there have been approximately 147 non-citizens or non-U.S. citizens presenting DHS/ICE/CBP documents that need validation by the NTVC since Jan. 1. The NTVC processed 42.844 non-citizens/non-U.S. citizens requesting document validation between Jan. 1 and Oct. 17. 30,925 of these people flew out from border airports. TSA used CBP One 38,000 times between Jan. 1 and Oct. 14.
Chad Wolf, a former DHS Acting Secretary who had previously held a variety of high-ranking positions at TSA under the George W. Bush administration and the Trump administration, told the DCNF that there are still risks in the process despite the vetting procedures in place.
“Does the risk outweigh the need to put them on an aircraft? That’s the issue at the end of the day is the more and more of these individuals who are flying without legitimate documentation, the risk profile increases and the more they do that the more risk DHS and TSA is assuming,” Wolf said. “What I would argue is you don’t have to take on that risk. They’re choosing to take on that risk when they put them on commercial aircraft.”
TSA has confirmed to DCNF that there is a process to verify the identity of illegal migrant with immigration documents and a ticket to a commercial flight. We did not receive a response from the agency regarding our request to know the most recent processing numbers for non-citizens or non-U.S. citizens.
“TSA coordinates with CBP and uses resources available to the agency to confirm the identity of every traveler to ensure that transportation security is not compromised,” a TSA spokesperson said. “The identification of migrants is verified using the accepted forms of immigration-issued documents, as well as with other foreign-issued documents and passports that identify travelers.”
DHS did not respond to a request to comment and ICE referred DCNF to CBP.