Domestic Flight from San Francisco Searched on Arrival at JFK by Customs and Border Patrol

Image courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

According to The Atlantic, passengers deplaning at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport from San Francisco on February 22nd were told they needed to present their identification to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) as they left, as agents were supposedly searching for an immigrant who “received a deportation order after multiple criminal convictions.” No passeners on the flight were detainned. However, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have no right to ID check passengers on an entirely domestic flight.

An ID check is a “search” under the law, which CBP and ICE agents can only do for people who are attempting to enter the U.S. from somewhere outside of its borders. In fact, when contacted, a CBP spokesperson even said “To assist ICE, CBP requested consensual assistance from passengers aboard the flight to determine whether the removable individual in question was in fact aboard the flight…CBP did not compel any of these domestic passengers to show identification.” This means that none of the passengers were forced to show their ID, but neither CBP nor ICE are obligated to inform passengers that they have the right to refuse to comply.

It is important for all travelers to know their rights and understand that while ICE or CBP can ask for your cooperation, it is not necessary for you to comply. They cannot force you to tell them your name, give them your ID, or otherwise identify yourself. Your best recourse is to offer no information and if pushed, invoke your right to legal representation.


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