PHOENIX (NewsNation) — U.S. air marshals may stage a “mutiny” on the Biden administration, saying they plan to refuse the mandatory deployment to assist with the influx of illegal immigration at the southern border, even if it means termination, the Washington Examiner reported.
The tensions come as the Biden administration is preparing for the possible end of a COVID-era border order, known as Title 42, which allows U.S. authorities to rapidly expel migrants to Mexico or other countries without the chance to seek asylum.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sought volunteers from the Federal Air Marshal Service to travel to the southwest border, but when fewer than 150 signed up in October, some were assigned, said Sonya LaBosco, executive director of the Air Marshal National Council.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, David Londo, president of the Air Marshal National Council, said, “The rank and file air marshals are going to refuse to deploy and risk termination.”
“You’re almost going to have a mutiny of a federal agency, which is unheard of,” he added.
The Air Marshal National Council said the deployments would hurt U.S. aviation security during the holiday travel season and force marshals to take on unrelated duties at the border, including watching migrant children.
“By taking all these extra assets, bringing them down to the border, doing menial tasks to support the Border Patrol that’s not supported in the first place, makes no sense,” said Frank Terreri, a retired supervisory federal air marshal. “This pretty much puts passengers at risk, meaning their flights, especially during this heavy holiday season, aren’t covered.”
A lawyer for the air marshal group wrote in a Nov. 4 letter to the agency that the deployments are illegal because they involve duties outside the scope of the job. While DHS does not release the number of marshals, LaBosco said there were fewer than 3,000.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the air marshal service employs thousands of air marshals. But, a source with the Transportation Security Administration told NewsNation that air marshals are only on 5% of flights.
In a statement to NewsNation, TSA defended the temporary deployment, saying, “Federal air marshals will continue to support our critical mission on the ground and onboard aircrafts.”
This isn’t the first time this has happened. DHS requested air marshals be sent to the border during a surge in 2019 when encounters exceeded 850,000, only a fraction of the numbers in the last fiscal year.
Reuters contributed to this report.