Another serious immigration breach has occured at a U.S. airport. Passengers arriving from Paris were able to bypass immigration and just walk out onto the city streets.
A passenger on the flight, James Harris, spoke to media about his experience. He said he had just arrived at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey after a whirlwind five day trip to Paris. According to him, if it was not for having to wait and pick up his luggage, he could have just walked out onto the street.
While speaking to CBS channel 2 New York, Harris said he found the whole thing quite disturbing. He noted his shock and surprise that a security breach like this can happen in post 911 America, saying,
“For the simple fact that I could walk off an international flight, straight into the streets of the U.S., is very worrisome to me,”.
X-L Airways passengers skip customs and immigration
He said that many of the passengers, including himself, deplaned from French carrier X-L Airways flight 10 at around midnight on Monday, June 17th. However, they somehow ended up missing customs and immigration, and went the wrong way through the airport.
Harris, a former employee of CBS News, said it was very confusing. He noted there were no employee’s around to tell the passengers where they needed to go.
“There was a lack of airport staff there that could direct us to the proper exits and because of that, you had half the flight go one way, the other half go the other way and so I was kind of caught in between of where do I go?”
Harris went on to say that, once he had his luggage, he presented the customs declaration slip to a Transportation Security Administration agent before leaving the airport. The agent, however, noticed that the customs declaration form had not been stamped. This could only mean one thing, and that was that Harris had clearly not cleared customs.
“One of the TSA agents had expressed to me, it’s like, ‘Oh no, ya know, this is a big mix-up. This wasn’t supposed to have happened,‘” Harris said.
How can this kind of security breach happen?
When approached for comment on how a security breach like this could happen, a spokesperson for the CBP said that the passengers had gone through the wrong door. As such they had bypassed immigration, but everything was OK now.
CBS2 then pressed the spokesperson for answers, asking if all the passengers had been accounted for? Who led them to the wrong door, and will anyone face disciplinary action?
In response, the CBP spokesperson said she had no further information at this time. Fox News later reported that the CBP have been fined for the security breach.
“Without having to pick up any type of luggage, I could’ve easily gone straight to the street from a flight from Paris without having to go through any kind of customs or screening,” Harris said.
Finnair passengers have done exactly the same thing earlier this month
When Finnair flight AY09 from Helsinki to Chicago landed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, passengers were unsure where to go and just followed a TSA agent through a series of open doors.
When finally arriving at the airport’s main terminal, some of the passengers realized they had made a mistake. What happens next is even more unbelievable. A TSA agent apparently told one passenger not to worry and just to go home. Five hours later, CBP officers were knocking on his door.
It’s unbelievable how these types of incidents can happen yet, often when arriving at airports late at night, I have even found myself wondering which direction I need to go.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? If so, we would love to read about it in the comments.