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
A truly bizarre incident happened on a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York.
Delta Flight 1583 passengers came face to face with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers when they disembarked from the plane and allegedly demanded to see each passenger’s documents.
The incident is unusual for domestic flights in which no identification is needed to exit the airport as well as for international flights where identification is checked during customs screening after deplaning.
The impromptu search was caught on camera by several passengers and posted online. It also raised questions about whether it was linked to the federal law enforcement efforts to find and detain undocumented immigrants — an effort that has expanded since President Donald Trump inauguration and has sparked fear in immigration communities nationwide.
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
The CBP asking for IDs from all passengers on @Delta flight 1583 was illegal. Domestic flights aren't in CBP jurisdiction.— Oceanotter (@boko6565) February 23, 2017
“People were like, ‘What does that mean? Do I need to show my ticket?’” said Anne Garrett, a video editor for VICE News, who was also on the flight. “I said, ‘Why do you need to see this?’ 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,” she added.
CBP later confirmed details of the incident and said the two officers were present because Immigration and Customs Enforcement were looking for an individual “ordered removed by an immigration judge.”
The person was not identified by name but had reportedly received a deportation order after multiple criminal convictions for domestic violence, driving under the influence and violating protective order.
“To assist our law enforcement partners, two CBP officers requested identification from those on the flight in order to help identify the individual,” the CBP statement said. “The individual was determined not to be on the flight.”
CBP is a division of the Department of Homeland Security and has about 60,000 agents deployed at airports and border crossing around the country who routinely check travelers crossing into the United States. However, it is uncommon for domestic flight passengers to be inspected at landing.
It is unclear what would have happened if the agents had discovered other undocumented immigrants getting off the plane of if someone had refused to hand over their identification documents.
“Is this a mere request to see identification?” said Jordan Wells, a staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Would they have been detained but for them showing ID? Because then it’s no longer a consensual encounter and the Constitution enters the equation.”