Group says blan­ket search was un­con­sti­tu­tional

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY MATT ZAPO­TO­SKY

who were asked to show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore de­plan­ing from a do­mes­tic flight are su­ing the govern­ment.

Nine pas­sen­gers on a do­mes­tic flight for which im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties made ev­ery­one show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore they could de­plane are su­ing the govern­ment, al­leg­ing they were sub­jected to an un­con­sti­tu­tional search, an at­tor­ney for the group said.

The pas­sen­gers, rep­re­sented by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, asked a fed­eral judge Thurs­day to bar the govern­ment from re­quir­ing peo­ple to pro­duce ID be­fore de­board­ing a do­mes­tic flight with­out a war­rant or in­di­vid­u­al­ized rea­son to do so.

ACLU Deputy Le­gal Di­rec­tor Ce­cil­lia Wang said that even though pas­sen­gers are re­quired to show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore be­ing al­lowed into the area where flights are boarded, those on board the flight were “shocked” to be asked to do so be­fore they could leave.

“There was no law­ful jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for de­tain­ing ev­ery sin­gle pas­sen­ger on this do­mes­tic flight,” she said.

A Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman and a Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion spokesman de­clined to com­ment. The Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion spokesman said the lack of re­sponse “should not be con­strued as agree­ment or stip­u­la­tion with any of the al­le­ga­tions.”

The in­ci­dent oc­curred in Fe­bru­ary on Delta Flight 1583 from San Fran­cisco to New York. Once on the ground at John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Wang said, those on board were greeted by Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion agents, who stood in the board­ing bridge and de­manded iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments.

Those who ques­tioned what was hap­pen­ing were told it was rou­tine, Wang said.

Kelley Amadei, 40, was fly­ing back home to New York with her wife and 7-year-old son. As the plane was taxi­ing to the gate, Amadei said, a mem­ber of the flight crew an­nounced that “no­body would be al­lowed to de­plane un­til they showed govern­ment-is­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

“That was alarm­ing to me, be­cause that’s not some­thing I had heard be­fore,” Amadei said.

At first, Amadei said she was scared. “My ini­tial in­stinct was, ‘Has some­thing hap­pened? Are we in dan­ger?’ ” But as she watched two agents block peo­ple from leav­ing, ask­ing each of them for their IDs, her fear turned to out­rage.

“It felt like a vi­o­la­tion,” Amadei said.

Au­thor­i­ties had been search­ing for an im­mi­grant who had re­ceived a de­por­ta­tion or­der to leave the United States. The in­ci­dent sparked sig­nif­i­cant con­tro­versy, as it came amid an on­go­ing le­gal fight over Pres­i­dent Trump’s first travel ban.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has promised to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and has some­times em­ployed con­tro­ver­sial tac­tics, such as us­ing court­houses to ar­rest peo­ple sus­pected of be­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

An of­fi­cial with the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity told The Wash­ing­ton Post af­ter the in­ci­dent that the steps Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion agents took were nor­mal and did not stem from a new pol­icy or ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

“When we’re asked by our law en­force­ment part­ners to as­sist in search­ing for a per­son of in­ter­est, we are able to, and will, help,” the of­fi­cial said.

The per­son whom agents had been seek­ing was not on the flight, au­thor­i­ties said.

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