The Biden Administration has quietly ordered Federal Air Marshals to begin mandatory deployments to the southern border to help with a surge in migrant encounters just as the holiday air travel season begins.
“As part of a DHS wide effort, (LE/FAMS) has been called upon to redeploy Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) to the Southwest Border,” Tirrell Stevenson, Executive Assistant Administrator and Director of the Transportation Security Administration’s Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service wrote to Air Marshals in a November 14 email shared with the Herald.
According to Stevenson’s email, it may be “operationally necessary” to assign deployments to Air Marshals from “all field offices and Headquarters assignments” despite a history of some Marshals voluntarily assisting Border Patrol agents.
“A transparent, equitable and consistent selection process and deployment plan has been developed and agreed to by all LE/FAMS Supervisory Air Marshals in Charge,” Stevenson wrote.
CBP has been dealing with a significant spike in migrant encounters at the border with Mexico, according to data released this month. According to CBP, their officers encountered 2 million migrants at the southern border in fiscal 2022, up from 1.7 million encounters in fiscal 2021.
Air Marshals have begun to deploy to the border on a mandatory schedule of 21 day waves, with the second such wave starting on November 16 and running through December 7, information shared with the Herald showed.
According to David Londo, the President of the Air Marshal National Council, these deployments are leaving “a gaping hole in our aviation security.”
“What is happening during the busiest travel time of the year, a time where the homeland has been attacked twice in the past, the shoe and underwear bombers, is irresponsible and dangerous,” he told the Herald. “As our families board flights this holiday season they will assume the government is doing their job of protecting their flights, but instead the reality is the government is prioritizing the welfare of migrants over their security.”
Londo has filed a complaint against both Stevenson and TSA Director David Pekoske with Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, in which he says the decision to deploy Air Marshals, who are generally regarded as the most elite marksmen in law enforcement, to the nation’s southern border is both a waste of their “highly specialized” training and a violation of the law.
Pekoske and Stevenson are sending Marshals to El Paso, Laredo, and McAllen, Texas, as well as San Diego, California and Yuma, Arizona, according to Londo. While there, he told the Inspector General, Marshals are performing “Hospital Watch, Transportation, Law Enforcement Searches, Welfare Checks, and Entry Control.”
“The agency documents never describe or mention that these duties have any relation to TSA’s core mission of transportation security. Instead, the duties relate to assisting migrants who have crossed the border into the United States,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for the TSA said Marshals deployed to the border before, in 2019, and that the rotations are temporary.
“The deployment of Federal Air Marshals to execute DHS’ mission at the southwest border on a reimbursable basis is temporary. At the same time, our expert Federal Air Marshal Service workforce continues their important work in transportation security,” they said.
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