Are US Customs and Border Protection Officers Checking IDs on Domestic Flights?

Feb 23, 2017

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Update 2/23/17 4:40pm: CBP just posted the same statement provided below on its website:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at John F. Kennedy Airport was contacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) yesterday, February 22, 2017, to assist in locating an individual possibly aboard Delta flight 1583 from San Francisco International Airport to JFK. This individual was ordered removed by an immigration judge. To assist our law enforcement partners, two CBP officers requested identification from those on the flight in order to help identify the individual. The individual was determined not to be on the flight. CBP often receives requests from our law enforcement partners to assist in various ways, including identifying a person of interest. CBP will assist when able to.

Update 2/23/17 4:00pm: CBP has informed Gothamist that the officers were searching for a specific individual. Of course, that doesn’t explain why the officers were verifying the IDs of every man, woman and child on the plane. Even more puzzling is the fact that this individual wasn’t even on the flight.

That said, here’s the statement provided to Gothamist:

[CBP] was contacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) yesterday, February 22, 2017, to assist in locating an individual possibly aboard Delta flight 1583 from San Francisco International Airport to JFK. This individual was ordered removed by an immigration judge. To assist our law enforcement partners, two CBP officers requested identification from those on the flight in order to help identify the individual. The individual was determined not to be on the flight.


Typically, you’ll only run into a US Customs and Border Protection officer when, ya know, you’re crossing the border. But it looks like officers may now be randomly inspecting passengers traveling on domestic flights as well.

Last night, following a seemingly uneventful journey from San Francisco to New York-JFK, passengers on Delta flight 1583 were greeted by an unusual sight as they exited the aircraft: two US CBP officers verifying “documents” of exiting passengers. While an ID is typically required for air travel within the US, it’s certainly unusual — and perhaps a bit concerning — for Customs and Border Protection officers to check identification upon arrival of a domestic flight.

Passengers took to Twitter to share photos of the event, with one photo showing a single officer checking identification:

And, in another Twitter user’s photo, a second officer is visible:

Delta has declined to issue comment regarding flight 1583, and while we’re waiting to hear back from Homeland Security, Gothamist was able to get a response from a CBP representative, who said that the ID checks are “not a new policy.” Additionally, according to the representative, it is “not unusual for [CBP] to assist our fellow law-enforcement agencies.”

That last bit doesn’t quite check out — there didn’t appear to be any TSA or police officers present, and it seems unlikely that they weren’t available when the flight arrived at 8:01pm. Hopefully this was an isolated incident, but we’d like to hear from you if you’ve encountered such an ID check during your domestic travels.

Have you run into CBP officers following a domestic flight?

Featured image courtesy of Ramin Talaie via Getty Images.

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