US Customs Agents Force All Passengers on Domestic SFO-JFK Flight to Show ID
In a highly unusual move, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in New York ordered passengers disembarking from a domestic flight on Wednesday to show their identification.
CBS San Francisco reports passengers on Delta flight 1583 from San Francisco to New York were met by customs agents at their arrival gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The agents demanded all passengers show identification before they could exit the plane. CBP explained it was searching for an individual wanted for an immigration violation who might have been aboard the cross-country flight.
“CBP at John F. Kennedy Airport was contacted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) yesterday, February 22, 2017, to assist in locating an individual possibly aboard Delta flight 1583 from San Francisco International Airport to JFK,” the agency said in a statement. “This individual was ordered removed by an immigration judge. To assist our law enforcement partners, two CBP officers requested identification from those on the flight in order to help identify the individual. The individual was determined not to be on the flight.”
Vice News editor Anne Garrett was aboard the flight and tweeted a photo of the unusual — and, to some passengers, frightening — checkpoint.
NBC New York reports some passengers were unnerved by the experience. “It didn’t feel normal. I’ve been on a million domestic flights, I didn’t ever have that experience,” passenger Kelley Amadei said. After being cleared to exit the flight, Amadei asked the agents what was happening. “He said, ‘It’s not for you to to worry about, we do it from time to time,'” she said. “I said, ‘I’ve been on a thousand flights, I used to travel three weeks out of the month. I never had it happen on a domestic flight and I’ve never had it happen on an international flight.’ He just looked at me and said ‘leave it alone.'”
Manhattan resident Matt O’Rourke was also on the flight. He said flight staff announced over the intercom that all passengers should be ready to show their IDs upon landing. “The head flight attendant came on and said, ‘Please have your papers ready’ three or four times,” O’Rouke told Gothamist. Passengers then asked why papers were necessary on a domestic flight. “Someone corrected her and she said, ‘Oh I mean photo IDs,'” he added. “To which people were kind of weirded out.”
“I flew almost 200,000 miles last year,” O’Rouke added. “I’ve never had my ID checked getting off a domestic flight.”
New York Civil Liberties Union attorney Jordan Wells said “CPB 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,” Wells told Gothamist.
A CBP official told Gothamist that such checks are “not a new policy” and that it is “not unusual for us to assist our fellow law-enforcement agencies.”