As many as 400 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees will soon arrive at the southwest border to work alongside Customs and Border Protection to address an increasingly problematic border situation, CNN reported Wednesday. The move was subsequently acknowledged by a TSA spokesman. “TSA, like all DHS components, is supporting the DHS effort to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border. TSA is in the process of soliciting volunteers to support this effort while minimizing operational impact,” spokesman James Gregory said.
It’s unclear just what the TSA employees will be doing at the border — CNN says they’ll receive legal training and then be “designated as immigration officers and assist Customs and Border Protection officers and agents with their work.” What does seem clear is that there’s a greater possibility for something bad to happen while they’re away.
In internal emails obtained by CNN, the TSA says transferring employees comes with “some risk as we enter a very busy summer” and that it represents an “additional challenge” for the agency.
TSA airport screeners of the type familiar to most travelers aren’t the ones being redeployed, but rather behind-the-scenes air marshals and “security ops” officers.
Removing these officers from airports at the start of the summer travel season seems like a risky political play, potentially exposing the Trump administration to criticism if anything goes wrong. And it doesn’t require a disaster: Recall that it was the bad press stemming from long waits and painful delays at airports brought on in part by a shortage of TSA agents that helped end this year’s government shutdown.
It’s possible, though, that the Trump administration might see any airport chaos brought about by the TSA transfer as a boon of sorts: If moving agents away from airports makes life hell for travelers, they may blame migrants and the border “crisis” for their misery — music to the administration’s ears.