Immigration: Why Did Border Patrol Ask for ID on a Domestic Flight?

A recent domestic flight was boarded by immigration officers who asked to see passengers’ identification. The flight from San Francisco to New York was met by two U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) agents who were conducting a search at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to CBP, an immigrant who had legal immigration documents received a deportation order after multiple criminal convictions for domestic assault, driving while impaired, and violating a protective order. The agents were in search of this unidentified immigrant, but did not find the person on the flight.

Was this Action Typical?

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, law enforcement officials sometimes board airplanes to apprehend a suspect or fugitive. They occasionally may pull someone off a flight or officers will enter a plane to make an arrest. However, it is highly unusual for officials to do what they did here – wait outside an arriving plane to ask for identification from each passenger.

ImmigrationWhy Did CBP Ask Passengers for ID?

During campaign season, President Trump promised his supporters he would deport “bad dudes” or “bad hombres”, a term he coined for immigrants convicted of crimes. It appears he’s trying to make good on his promise.

Asking for identification from each passenger was without a doubt atypical for CBP and certainly not protocol. Due to this unusual action by CBP, people are starting to question whether it was connected to President Trump’s new immigration guidelines. Under the Obama administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) prioritized finding and deporting undocumented immigrants with prior criminal convictions. The Trump administration has taken this one step further. Under the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines to ICE and CBP empowering federal agents to detain, target and deport any immigrant currently in the United States without documentation. This includes immigrants who have no past criminal convictions.

What are the Immigration Laws in the U.S.?

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”) is the body of law that governs current immigration policy.

There are essentially three ways to legally immigrate to the United States. First, an immediate family relative can sponsor anyone seeking immigration visas so long as the immigrant is at least 21 years old and can demonstrate either the sponsor or the immigrant has the financial means to support him or herself in the United States. Second, individuals who leave their home country to avoid persecution can obtain refugee status through the U.S. Embassy, thereby obtaining refugee and asylum status. Third, lawful permanent residency allows for a foreign national to work and live lawfully in the U.S. This is known as obtaining an employment or work visa.

Are Immigrants a Problem in the U.S.?

Recent statistics show that there are a record 61 million immigrants and their American-born children who live in the United States. Given the limited ability for most immigrants to immigrate to America legally, there are an estimated 15.7 million who live here illegally. These people are known as undocumented (or illegal) immigrants, and they are foreign people who have no legal right to remain in the U.S.

As with any group of people, some immigrants are criminals, but it is dangerous to assume all immigrants are “bad dudes.” Not only is it an unsubstantiated stereotype, it also unfairly categorizes an entire group of people based purely on their immigration status. The fact that this stereotype is perpetuated by the President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, encourages narrow-minded thinking.

President Trump’s new stricter guidelines that encourage targeting, detaining and deporting immigrants are consistent with his campaign and presidency which seem to focus on dividing our nation instead of uniting it.

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