The Trump Administration is tapping the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to help respond to the surge of illegal immigrants at the southern border. The TSA has reportedly confirmed plans to redeploy about one percent of its workforce---which equals about 400 people---to the border. The TSA calls the deployments "temporary" but did not specify exactly how long they would be.
Jay Ratliff, iHeartMedia Aviation Analyst, says small numbers of TSA agents are often redeployed to different locations around the country. "They may be at a train station, obviously they're at airports, but many times they are (deployed) in a mobile unit, in small numbers, when it's needed in various areas," he tells KTRH. "So it's not uncommon, it's not unprecedented."
As for what the agents will be doing at the border, Ratliff says it won't be much different than what they do at the airport. "What they would be trained to do is what they do now," he tells KTRH. "Looking for specific items from a threat-based standpoint with individuals coming through the immigration process."
The timing of this deployment is raising concerns. The president of the TSA union, Hydrick Thomas, released a statement this week criticizing the move, saying it will "undermine aviation security" at a time "we are preparing for another busy summer travel season."
Ratliff has heard similar concerns from TSA employees. "We're getting ready to enter one of the busiest summer travel seasons we've ever seen," he says. "With this number of agents out of the loop, is that going to slow things down at the nation's airports?"
There are also long-term timing questions. "Talking about this surge in immigration, you don't really see an end to it in any short matter of time," says Ratliff. "So then the question is how long are they going to be involved in this duty, are they going to be rotated in and out, how long is that presence going to be there?"