Trump transferring air marshals, possibly screeners too, to guard his wall
One of the growing numbers of nurses sent to the border by NNU helps a young girl. Unlike Trump who puts children in cages the nurses are delivering humanitarian aid to them at the border. | NNU.org

WASHINGTON–A Trump administration scheme to transfer up to 400 Transportation Security Administration workers to the U.S.-Mexico border – including air marshals and possibly airport screeners, too – is drawing flak from both the union that represents the screeners and several key lawmakers.

And it comes at a time when the nation has 4,000 screener vacancies, too, the top Democrat on the Senate panel overseeing the Department of Homeland Security says.

The transfer, first disclosed by CNN, would involve only “volunteers” from the TSA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other parts of DHS, the administration contends. A leaked e-mail says airport screeners would not be transferred “at first.”

But air marshals, who now ride incognito on planes to guard against terror attacks, are already going. They join some 4,200 U.S. soldiers at the border. Both groups, DHS claims without proof, are doing backup work.

Trump’s DHS alleges it needs to send those workers to the U.S-Mexico border to deal with the increased numbers of refugees and other asylum-seekers there.

The numbers are so large that another union, the National Nurses United, sent its volunteer Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) teams back to the border to help out with health care for the migrants. Meanwhile, CNN is reporting migrant children are sleeping outside at one big entry point in Texas, because there’s not enough room for them inside its shelter.

Trump wants to ban all the migrants – regardless of whether they’re refugees, asylum seekers, single people or families — from entering the U.S., violating international law and treaties the U.S. signed.

He’s also using them to cater to his Nativist, anti-Hispanic base. Both the Nativists and Trump hate Latinos. Both demand Hispanic-named people be picked up and deported, regardless of whether they’re citizens, refugees, asylum-seekers or undocumented people.

And both Trump and his supporters demand beefing up the border, via his racist Mexican Wall and by increasing the numbers of agents and other workers there, as a deterrent.

To increase the “deterrent,” Trump’s robbing the TSA of screeners, formally known as Transportation Security Officers, says J. David Cox, whose union, the Government Employees (AFGE), represents the estimated 44,000 TSOs.

“Airport security is an enormously important aspect of domestic security,” he emailed to People’s World. “TSA is already underfunded and understaffed, and diverting its resources just as we enter the busiest travel season will be an operational disaster, another Trump administration manufactured ‘crisis.’”

“I can just hear the administration claiming that the resulting long lines at airport checkpoints prove that airport security should be privatized.”

Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE’s TSA Council, echoed those comments:

“TSA’s primary concern should be aviation and transportation security. The agency’s plan to pull away parts of a complex, integrated transportation security system for other purposes means fewer resources will be available for aviation security,” he said.

“The timing of this deployment could not be worse, as we are preparing for yet another busy summer travel season.

“On behalf of the 44,000” TSOs, “I urge TSA to reconsider its decision to strip away these important security roles from our airports. TSA officers are already severely understaffed. Removing our aviation security counterparts from airports and placing them at the border could undermine our nation’s aviation security.”

Lawmakers aren’t happy with Trump’s scheme shift of marshals and potentially screeners,  either.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., top Democrat on that chamber’s Homeland Security panel, was the one who pointed out the agency lacks about 10 percent of the authorized TSOs. “Congress must address the challenges at the Southern border without jeopardizing security at the Northern border or any of DHS’ other critical national security missions,” he said in a statement.

“Transferring resources and personnel from other vital agencies like TSA or FEMA are short-sighted, temporary fixes that could have serious ripple effects across the country, such as longer wait times at airports during the busy summer travel season or reduced capacity for disaster response during hurricane season,” Peters added.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., called Trump’s shift of the TSA workers to the border “the contrived manufacturing of a crisis to the detriment of the TSA.”

Meanwhile, RNRN volunteers headed back to the Casa Alitas shelter in Tucson to provide health care for migrants over Memorial Day weekend where DHS can’t – or won’t. Their volunteer deployment came after migrant Carlos Gregorio Velasquez Hernandez, 16, died of the flu while in U.S. custody on May 20 in Texas.

Nurses who worked in Tucson before told National Nurses United the detainees reported having medications taken from them, that many suffer “inadequate medical care while in custody” and some show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, dehydration, and exhaustion. The RNRN volunteers, again quoting detainees, reported DHS held them in fenced cages with concrete floors, inadequate bedding, and insufficient food and water.

San Francisco RN Ada Bajada, an RNRN volunteer, said she went to Casa Alitas because she too was an asylum seeker, at the age of 10 months as her parents fled the civil war in El Salvador – a war, though she did not say so, where the U.S. armed, trained and financed one side. “The story of these asylum seekers is my story,” Bajada said.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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