The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers’ search of airline passengers who were forced to show identification in order to exit a commercial aircraft at the end of the domestic flight.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of nine passengers who were on the Feb. 22 Delta flight from San Francisco to New York, alleges the officers had no legal authority to request identification from passengers and that the searches violated passengers’ Fourth Amendment rights.
“Plaintiffs did not consent to any search or seizure as they were attempting to deplane Flight 1583,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, they understood from the circumstances, as set forth above, that the stop and search was mandatory and that they were not free to deplane without submitting to the officers.”
After leaving the plane, several passengers took photos of the officers checking IDs and posted them on social media.
In a statement issued after the incident received news coverage, Customs and Border Protection said officers were helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement locate a person who was in the country illegally and thought to be on the flight. CBP said the person had been ordered removed from the country by an immigration judge, and officers requested identification from people on the flight “in order to help identify the individual.”
The person was determined not to have been on the flight.
When CBP sought to explain its authority to search domestic airline passengers in responses to the media, officials pointed legal statutes that the ACLU argues only authorize searches of passengers who are arriving in the U.S. from abroad.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal court seeking a permanent injunction barring CBP, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security from conducting warrantless or suspicion-less identification checks on passengers disembarking from domestic flights.
CBP spokesman Anthony Bucci said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
“However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations,” he said in a statement.
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.