House Republicans demanded answers from Homeland Security on Tuesday on why undocumented immigrants caught and released at the border are able to board commercial flights, going deeper into the U.S.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Michael Cloud of Texas, pointed to Transportation Security Administration rules that require adult passengers to show valid ID, and said it’s “unclear” how those who jumped the border without permission have the right documentation to get on a flight.
That’s particularly true for tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have been released over the last four months without an official Notice to Appear (NTA).
An NTA is a summons for immigration court, but it can also serve as a form of ID for Homeland Security. But the border surge has so overwhelmed the Border Patrol that it was unable to issue NTAs to migrants it was catching and releasing.
“This is particularly troubling considering that it is not uncommon for DHS personnel to encounter and apprehend sex offenders, gang members, and terrorists,” the lawmakers, all members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Migrants released without NTAs are supposed to show up within 60 days at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to get an NTA, but The Washington Times exclusively reported last week that less than 25% of them are actually showing up.
The Times has reached out to Homeland Security for comment.
Most undocumented immigrants caught and released at the border appear to be traveling to the interior of the U.S. by bus.
But some are boarding planes in border towns, and that has startled lawmakers who see them in airport lounges or on their flights out of Texas.
“I see them every time I fly to D.C. — families going to the interior,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose district straddles the border, said at a hearing with Mr. Mayorkas in late May.
Rep. Steven Palazzo, at the same hearing, recalled his own flight back from a border visit. One woman on the flight was an undocumented immigrant in a full-body cast. She’d been pushed off the border wall by smugglers, and broke her back.
“But she wasn’t alone on that flight. There were several illegals who came into our country, minors that are flying all across the United States,” the Mississippi Republican said. “We’re turning all of our states into border states.”
The migrants usually struggle with English and are issued folders with their names and information and a note pleading with anyone they encounter at the airport to offer assistance in helping them get where they’re going.
Mr. Cloud and his colleagues on the Oversight Committee demanded to know whether Homeland Security is issuing any documents to the undocumented immigrants that would be acceptable ID under the rules of the TSA, which is also a Homeland Security agency.
If some documents are being issued, the lawmakers asked for details on the screening the government does to make sure the applicants are who they say they are.