FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is urging the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to provide answers about a reported initiative to allow migrants to use the CBP One app to verify documentation when boarding airplanes — without having to have their photo taken by the agency.
Hawley, in a letter first obtained by Fox News Digital, wrote to TSA administrator David Pekoske about a partnership between TSA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to allow migrants to use CBP One to validate travel documents.
“This practice not only undermines the rule of law but also raises significant security concerns for commercial airflight,” he said.
The app has been used since January last year to allow migrants who present themselves at a port of entry to be allowed in, initially due to an exception from the Title 42 public health order and then since May to be paroled in to the U.S. as part of the Biden administration’s expansion of “lawful pathways.” It allows them to upload a photograph before making an appointment and provide additional information before the appointment.
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CBP has stressed that those who have entered the country are vetted using biographic and biometric information, and those who are paroled have already provided a photograph. Parolees are not in the country illegally since they have been paroled, but Republicans have said that the CBP One app is being used to wave in otherwise illegal immigrants. Hawley has previously described the app as a “concierge service” for illegal immigration.
The TSA had previously green-lit the use of civil arrest warrants and deportation orders to allow migrants — including those in the country illegally — to board planes, with Pekoske telling Hawley last year that under 1,000 migrants had been allowed to board planes.
Howerver, this week, conservative commentator David Rubin posted an image onto X showing a sign, purportedly at Miami International Airport, which says, “TSA is partnering with CBP to test the use of CBP One at certain TSA checkpoints to validate adult non-U.S. citizen travel documentation when the traveler does not otherwise have an acceptable form of identification.”
The sign explains how the individual must notify an officer, have an optional photo taken and provide either their alien identification number or biographical information. The sign stresses that the individual may decline to have a photo taken but must still provide the information, and that that information is verified through CBP One.
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Hawley said that if the report is accurate, “this is outrageous.”
“Millions of Americans are subject to the TSA screening process, which is often a burdensome, long inconvenience—and which includes photo identification. But every day, Americans take on this burden to increase the safety of their fellow passengers,” he said.
“Therefore, it makes no sense to give special privileges to illegal immigrants, who should not even be allowed in the United States in the first place, let alone allowed to board U.S. aircraft. This is symbolic of the Biden Administration’s prioritization of open border policies over Americans’ safety,” he said.
He noted that he has previously questioned TSA over the use of allowing migrants to provide typically insufficient documentation, like arrest warrants, as ID. Hawley wants to know which DHS component developed the policy, how many immigrants have used it and been allowed to board aircraft, and a request for related documentation.
TSA told Fox News in response to a query about the screening practice that it does not screen upon entry into the U.S. and that all passengers have the right to opt out of automated facial recognition.
“If a noncitizen opts out, as part of identity verification, TSA checks the live face against a photo taken by CBP upon encounter to ensure that they are the same person. If identity is confirmed, the noncitizen receives enhanced physical screening of their person and property,” a spokesperson said.
“All individuals without an acceptable form of identification go through a stringent identity matching process and then receive additional screening before being allowed to proceed to his or her flight. Additionally, TSA denies boarding to all noncitizens whom TSA cannot match to government holdings.”
Pekoske had previously defended the practice of allowing arrest warrants to be used when quizzed by Hawley.
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“These individuals who have these arrest warrants, these arrest warrants were issued by Border Patrol or a customs officer, and they serve as a beginning of our identity verification process so you can’t walk up to a checkpoint, wave that form and then go right through into screening,” he said at a hearing in 2022.
The agency has also said that any such document will then be validated via an “alien identification number” that involves personally identifiable information being checked against a number of CBP databases, including the CBP One mobile application and TSA’s National Transportation Vetting Center.
“To confirm the identity of an individual and ensure they are not on the no-fly list or pose a known threat to public safety or national security, TSA verifies the identity of every traveler before they are permitted to enter the secure area of an airport,” a statement from TSA said at the time.
“We aren’t looking at whether a person is legal or illegal in the country,” Pekoske said. “Our role is to make sure that people who may pose a risk to transportation that is significant enough to require enhanced screening or to not allow them to fly.”
The letter comes as the migrant crisis is heading into its third year with record numbers recorded at the border. There were more than 302,000 migrant encounters in December and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently told agents that over 85% were being released into the interior.
Fox News’ Brian Paz contributed to this report.
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