‘If these TSOs are reallocated somewhere else we will have lines all the way out to the garages…’
(Camila DeChalus, CQ-Roll Call) Democrats continued to deny the crisis that has resulted in apprehensions of around 100,000 illegals per month recently at the southern U.S. border, and to block all efforts to improve personnel issues, such as a plan to send 400 Transportation Security Administration workers.
They raised concerns Tuesday that the TSA’s ongoing problems with high turnover rates could worsen after the Trump administration announced it would dispatch the airport personnel to help with the migrant surge.
“I think what I see now is continued manufacturing of a crisis, to the detriment of TSA and some other agencies, which should not be,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., House Homeland Security chairman, said at a Tuesday hearing on the TSA workforce crisis.
“I’m concerned that we are now putting airports at risk potentially, as well as the traveling public at risk in general, by taking people away from airports and sending them to the border,” Thompson said.
Democrats on the committee also raised questions about whether the nation’s airport security forces are properly trained to assist Border Patrol agents after USA Today reported that TSA workers reallocated to the border will be assisting in meal preparation, property management and legal assistance for asylum petitioners.
Some sought to use the border crisis as a bargaining chip in a bid to raise TSA wages, despite Democrats’ prior refusal to provide funding for President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
“We can talk about the border, the refugee crisis is a major issue, but I’ll tell you what they are guarding against at major airport is individuals who have a goal and intent to bring down one of our planes,” said Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif.
“We have to make sure these individuals are paid correctly so that the turnover goes down so that we can remain safe,” he said.
GOP lawmakers pointed out that the recent deployment of TSA workers to the border highlights how the situation at the southern border is escalating.
“It is a concern to move TSA employees to the border, even though they did so voluntarily in my understanding, but it just goes to show the crisis we have down at the border,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said.
The 400 volunteers from TSA are coming from all divisions, Department of Homeland Security officials said, including front-line officers, headquarters personnel and federal air marshals.
“We will minimize volunteers from airports that have attrition issues and will monitor operations to ensure volunteers are strategically selected to minimize impact,” a DHS official, who did not want to be identified, said in a statement.
Trump has repeatedly called what’s happening at the southern border a “humanitarian crisis” and has deployed thousands of National Guard and active-duty troops to the southern border to assist Border Patrol personnel as the monthly border apprehension numbers continue to rise.
In April, 109,144 individuals were apprehended at the southwest border, which included individuals who turned themselves in openly to Border Patrol and those deemed “inadmissible” or caught entering the U.S. illegally, according to DHS. April was the second month in a row in which the monthly number of border apprehensions exceeded more than 100,000.
David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said that TSA officers are not trained to perform the work they’ll be conducting at the border.
“I’m not aware of any type of training at the law enforcement academy on serving meals and the preparation of meals and those type of things,” he said.
Cox also said that no one from the administration talked with him about sending TSA workers to the southern border and said that the high turnover rate in TSA is largely because of the agency’s erratic scheduling practices and low pay.
“People who flip burgers make more than them,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo. “Americans ought to be furious about what’s going on, we pay these people almost nothing to save our lives every day.”
Lance Lyttle, managing director at Sea-Tac International Airport, part of the aviation division at the Port of Seattle, said Tuesday that his team is struggling to manage with the resources and number of transportation security officers that they have at the airport.
“I’ve been at the airport for 3 years and we have never had enough staff to man all of the lanes at the airports,” he said. “If these TSOs are reallocated somewhere else we will have lines all the way out to the garages.”
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