CBP “inspects” domestic flight from SFO to JFK

CBP “inspects” domestic flight from SFO to JFK

On October 12, 2017, several passengers aboard a domestic Delta flight from San Francisco to New York, filed a lawsuit against US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), alleging a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.

According to the allegations/claims in that lawsuit, on February 22, 2017 CBP stopped and searched every passenger on board that flight (including U.S. citizens) before allowing them to deplane.  CBP officers stood at the exit door, and would not let passengers off until they produced identification documents.  This was despite them already showing ID to TSA before boarding the flight in San Francisco.

As the plane was pulling up to the gate, there was an announcement from the flight crew that all passengers would have to show identification documents to the CBP officers.  When the doors opened, two uniform CBP officers were standing at the doorway, forcing passengers to line up inside and delaying their exit as CBP officers stopped each passenger.

According to CBP, this action was taken at the request and direction of ICE, and was a routine matter consistent with their policy.  The passengers who filed the lawsuit are frequent flyers on domestic airline flights, and are afraid they will again be subjected to similar treatment, which they considered to be an illegal search and seizure, in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.

This case raises concerns because ordinarily when a person flies domestically (or within the U.S.), no visa is required, and a person does not need to be “inspected” by CBP.  In order to board a flight, a person shows the TSA officers some form of government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or the picture page of their passport.  However, passengers are usually not “inspected” by CBP, unless the person is coming into the U.S. from a foreign country.

Many people who are out of status and travel domestically normally do not encounter CBP.  It remains to be seen what will happen with this lawsuit, and whether CBP will continue inspecting domestic flights.  In the meantime, you should know your rights and what to do if DHS should ever knock on your door or be waiting for you upon arrival to your destination on a domestic flight.  I have already published articles on what to do if DHS comes knocking at your door.

Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.

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