The head of a labor union representing TSA employees predicts that Trump administration plans to deploy hundreds of TSA workers to the Southern border with Mexico could cripple security operations at airports across the country and American Federation of Government Employees spokesperson Jacque Simon told NPR that might just be the intention.
Homeland Security officials insist that tentative plans to send hundreds of TSA employees to assist with what is described as a crisis at the Southern U.S. border will not result in strain on security at U.S. airports. A spokesperson for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), however, predicts that the move will create chaos at U.S. airports if it is implemented. This week, Jacque Simon suggested to NPR’s Steve Inskeep that the redeployment of some TSA employees to border control duty, may well be intended to give the agency a very public black eye when inevitable airport delays occur.
“Here’s the scenario we envision – very, very long lines at airports because they’ll have to close checkpoints,” Simon told Inskeep in an interview broadcast on Wednesday. “They won’t have enough staff. And then we’ll have a narrative that TSA can’t do anything right. They can’t manage their resources properly. They can’t function and provide adequate security at airports, so let’s go back to pre-9/11 private, minimum-wage airport screening. That’s the narrative we hear over and over again.”
According to internal TSA documents leaked earlier this month, the agency could send as many as 400 employees to the southern border due to what is framed as a crisis at the southern border. Homeland Security officials say that so far, plans do not call for any airport screeners to be re-deployed for border control duties.
“There is now immediate need for more help from TSA at the SW border,” Senior TSA official Gary Renfrow wrote in the controversial email to TSA employees. “TSA has committed to support with 400 people from Security Ops. We also understand that we are accepting some risk as we enter a very busy summer.”
The agency anticipates committing hundreds of employees to border control efforts in the coming months. The volunteer TSA deployments are expected to last between 45 to 60 days initially, but are subject to being extended as conditions warrant. The rotating assignments are expected to start just as this year’s traditional summer travel period kicks off. The TSA has publicly promised that redeploying resources to the border will not impede airport security operations.
“On the one hand, it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Simon explained. “But they get the extra bonus of undermining an important agency, TSA.”
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