To help deal with “a surge in irregular migration,” the Biden administration is deploying Federal Air Marshals (FAM) to the Mexican border to “protect the life and safety of federal personnel,” according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum sent to the highly skilled law enforcement officers this week via electronic mail. Judicial Watch obtained a copy of the urgent directive from various recipients at the agency, which operates under the beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA), created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack. FAM is charged with protecting commercial passenger flights by deterring and countering the risk of terrorist activity and officers, specially trained aviation security specialists, are outraged that they are being sent to the southern border.
“The nation is experiencing a surge in irregular migration along the Southwest Border (SWB),” the notice to FAM officers states. “The unprecedented volume of Noncitizen Migrants (NCMs) currently apprehended mandates immediate further action to protect the life and safety of federal personnel and noncitizens in CBP [Customs and Border Protection] custody.” This appears to be the first acknowledgment, albeit leaked involuntarily, by the Biden administration that there is indeed a crisis along the nation’s famously porous southern border. “To support its mission, CBP is seeking federal employees from DHS Components and other federal agencies to be placed on reimbursable TDY assignments to assist in critical support functions,” the widely circulated mandate states, adding that “LE/FAMS has been directed by DHS to support this request.”
The first wave of FAMs will be dispatched to El Paso, Texas and Yuma, Arizona on October 30 for an October 31 start. Thirty officers and a supervisor will go to El Paso, 15 officers and a supervisor will go to Yuma. “There will be further deployments on TBD dates,” the memo to the nation’s FAM staff reads. It also says that overtime pay for the assignment is “highly likely.” The temporary assignments will consist of 21-day rotations and may be extended for up to 120 days. Here is the important work that the specially trained law enforcement officers will be doing in the southern border rather than their critical duty of protecting commercial planes flagged for terrorist threats. “Hospital Watch, Transportation, Law Enforcement Searches, Entry Control, Security at CBP Facilities and Welfare Checks.”
This is hardly the first time FAM resources are misused, potentially endangering the flying public. Last summer Judicial Watch exposed a scandal-plagued “VIP” program that provided members of Congress with FAMs often yanked from high-risk flights that went unprotected. Judicial Watch learned about the secret program when several enraged FAMs provided information, including logs and records, surrounding Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ trip to Minnesota. Two officers were pulled from a high-risk flight so the veteran California lawmaker could have extra security though she was already covered by a four-man detail consisting of two Capitol Police officers and two Secret Service agents and her flight was not flagged for any threats. The high-risk flight completed its trip without the two air marshals originally assigned to it, said Sonya Hightower-LaBosco, a retired FAM who serves as executive director of the Air Marshal National Council. The union represents thousands of air marshals nationwide. “Two air marshals were pulled off a high-risk flight so Maxine Waters’ aircraft could have six armed agents,” Hightower-LaBosco confirmed, adding that two additional armed agents met the congresswoman on the ground.
Less than two weeks after Judicial Watch published its report, the congressional VIP program was canceled. As a result, hundreds of FAMs sat idly at airports around the U.S. because the special missions stopped and so many officers had been assigned to them on a regular basis. One veteran air marshal said, “the Washington Field Office in Washington D.C. was almost exclusively dedicated to VIP services for Congress.” Another longtime FAM told Judicial Watch he was deployed on several VIP missions with low-profile members of Congress. He said so many air marshals were on standby for the VIP congressional program that when it ended, he and many of his colleagues sat “around the airport waiting for a mission.” Now they are being dispersed to the Mexican border to babysit illegal immigrants.