Airlines not cooperating with Trump’s immigration initiative because tracking is too expensive for them

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The federal government has developed an “exit-tracking” system to help keep tabs on foreign travelers, but airlines are not buying into the program.

One airline official went so far as to say there’s “no benefit to us,” despite the very real possibility of delivering a potential terrorist to his targeted destination – or worse yet, of an airliner being blown out of the sky.

Homeland Security is planning to install cameras that would photograph passengers just before they board international flights, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It’s a rare immigration initiative with bipartisan support. A biometric system would serve as a defense against terrorism, making it harder for someone to leave or remain in the country without detection. It also draws attention to people who have overstayed their visas and remain in the country illegally.

“We’re out of time and we’re out of excuses,” John Wagner, who runs the program for the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency, told a House committee last month. “I understand your frustration with this.”

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Concerned about the “astronomical” cost of border agents manning international airports, the feds wants airlines to operate the cameras.

But despite having a vested interest in the safety of their flights, airlines are not too eager to get on board with the national security function.

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“Right now, there is no benefit to us,” one airline official told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re not interested in adding another 10 minutes to the boarding process.”

And he said DHS could compel airlines to cooperate. If his agency has to run the cameras, Mr. Wagner said, it might have to restrict the number of airports or gates that may be used for international flights to keep costs reasonable.

“That’s an option that is out there,” he said. “We have the authority to do that.”

And while it’s disputable whether the cameras will slow that process, a few minutes is a paltry cost in comparison to potential loss of life.

 

 

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Tom Tillison

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