Deploying air marshals to border leaves US ‘vulnerable to attack’ during holiday travel season, official claims
U.S. air marshals are reportedly staging a “mutiny” on the Biden administration over its immigration policies, as they plan to refuse mandatory deployment orders to the southern border and, therefore, face possible termination.
Though refusing the order puts them at risk of termination, dozens of air marshals argue that abandoning their current assignments will leave American fliers more vulnerable to threats over the busy holiday travel season.
Amid an influx of illegal immigrants held in custody, the Federal Air Marshal Service asked for volunteers to deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border for 30 days in mid-2021. But earlier this month, the Biden administration announced air marshals, considered federal law enforcement agents within the Transportation Security Administration, would face mandatory deployments as the shortage of Border Patrol agents worsens.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, David Londo, president of the Air Marshal National Council, said, “Rank and file air marshals are going to refuse to deploy and risk termination,” as the Biden administration plan would strip 99% of commercial airline flights from federal protection.
“You’re almost going to have a mutiny of a federal agency, which is unheard of,” he said.
The mandatory deployments would leave just one-in-100 U.S. flights with federal agents on board, culminating one-eighth of its normal coverage, according to the Examiner.
Londo said “highly-skilled” air marshals deployed to the border this week “are being made to perform mainly non-law enforcement civilian humanitarian duties.” He told the Examiner that includes “heating up sandwiches,” driving illegal immigrants in custody to the hospital and waiting inside for hours on hospital watch, and effectively babysitting adults who are already in confined spaces.
“Morale is so destroyed from this,” Londo said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
In a statement to the Examiner, the Transportation Security Administration denied air marshals deployed to the border performed such menial tasks, describing Londo’s claims as “entirely inaccurate and does not reflect the critical and professional law enforcement role these officers perform.”
In a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske, and Federal Air Marshal Service Director Tirrell Stevenson, Londo cited two major security incidents on aircraft within the past two weeks in which media indicated there were no air marshals on board.
The first incident, as reported by The Washington Post, involved a man who boarded Frontier flight 1761 with two box cutters on Nov. 11 and threatened to stab passengers and crew before being subdued by passengers. The flight was diverted, and the person was taken into custody.
The second incident involved a man who was allowed to board JetBlue flight 871 with a small-edged weapon, which the suspect allegedly placed to the throat of another passenger. He was arrested and faces several federal offenses.
Year to date, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded 2,178 reports of unruly passengers, 767 investigations initiated, and 517 enforcement actions taken, the letter said.
Londo also cited “two attempted attacks on our homeland since 9-11 during the holiday season.”
“Your policy of forcing FAMs to deploy to the southern border is extremely concerning given the time of year and the recent incidents of violence on American-flagged aircraft. As it stands today, we believe that many FAMs [federal air marshals] will refuse to deploy, believing the order is reckless and leaving our country vulnerable to attack,” Londo wrote. “In at least one case, a FAM is being told he has to deploy even though he informed the agency he has no childcare. The agency’s only response has been that he will get written up and face termination.”
“Your policy has resulted in a complete loss of confidence in Secretary Mayorkas, FAM Director Stevenson, and Administrator Pekoske’s ability to lead DHS/TSA/FAMS,” Londo added.
Londo told the Examiner the council, which is an association, not a union, is working with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to potentially launch a federal probe into the Biden administration’s practice of repurposing air marshals to serve at the southern border.
The National Association of Police Organizations issued a statement supporting the reportedly dozens of air marshals who plan to refuse the mandatory border deployment.
“The Federal Air Marshal Service is understaffed and covering the fewest number of flights since before September 11, 2001,” the statement said. “We strongly question the decision by the Department of Homeland Security to divert much-needed aviation security to the southern border especially as we enter the busiest travel season of the year, particularly as a federal emergency has not been declared at the border.”
Meanwhile, the TSA defended the Biden administration’s operation.
“Federal Air Marshals are performing law enforcement support to the mission at the southwest border,” a TSA spokesman told the Examiner. “The TSA Federal Air Marshal Service is a highly valued member of the DHS law enforcement team and has an ever-expanding role within DHS, working closely with other U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to safeguard the nation’s transportation systems.”
Fox News Digital independently reached out to the TSA on Wednesday but did not immediately receive a response.
The Federal Air Marshal Service’s Miami Field Office said Monday that border deployments would last indefinitely. Its agents have already reportedly been sent to El Paso, Laredo, and McAllen, Texas; San Diego; and Tucson and Yuma, Arizona.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.
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