The federal government intends to divert hundreds of
Transportation Security Administration agents and air marshals from U.S. airports
to the southern border, raising concerns about long lines and safety heading
into the busy summer travel season, CNN is reporting.
CNN says the plan to ultimately send nearly 600 law
enforcement and security operations officials from the TSA to help with
swelling numbers of illegal border crossings was revealed in an internal memo
The report said the deployment would not involve airport
screeners, "at least initially."
A TSA spokesperson declined to confirm the accuracy of the
report, saying only, "TSA, like all DHS components, is supporting the DHS
effort to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border.
TSA is in the process of soliciting volunteers to support this effort while
minimizing operational impact."
But the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA accused the
Trump administration of undermining aviation security.
"We implore the White House and Department of Homeland
Security to reverse this harmful plan," the union said in a statement,
noting that TSA is charged with transportation security, not border patrol.
With summer travel season beginning, the union said, "this
is the exact wrong time to stretch resources thin. Uniformed transportation
security officers are only part of the important security network that keeps
the flying public and aviation workers safe.
"There are thousands of security personnel in plain
sight or behind the scenes that monitor aviation security as well. While the
public may not be able to see this staff diversion, removing them from their
post will undoubtedly have effects."
The U.S. Travel
Association said it was concerned about the impact on the travel, noting that
the administration has already sent customs officials from airports to the
border, resulting in long wait times in some arrival halls.
"Acknowledging the concerns about the situation on the
southern border, we must closely watch the secondary effects of the measures
being undertaken to address it--especially disruption to the U.S. economy,"
said Tori Barnes, vice president of public affairs and policy for U.S. Travel.
"Further stretching CBP and TSA resources -- especially
headed into the busiest time of year at our nation's airports and points of
entry -- clearly could result in turmoil for business and leisure travel that
supports millions of livelihoods all across the country.
Barnes said that additional funding is essential and systemwide
reforms are necessary to ensure the full functionality of these agencies.
"We urge the administration and Congress to immediately
engage in a thorough and intensive discussion about appropriate resourcing for
all of the Department of Homeland Security's vital functions in the face of
This report was updated Wednesday to add comments from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.