28/12/2009 – Myth: Flight NW253 Terrorist Boarded The Flight With No Passport
Earlier today the Detroit News and New York Daily News reported that a couple, Kurt & Lori Haskell, of Newport, Michigan, both attorneys, witnessed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarding Delta Flight 253, operated by Northwest Airlines without a passport at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
Kurt & Lori Haskell claim that Abdulmutallab, was ‘poorly dressed’ and was accompanied by a man dressed in an ‘expensive suit’ at the ticket counter. The Haskell’s have told reporters that the well dressed man asked that Abdulmutallab be allowed to board the flight without a passport, representing Abdulmutallab as a Sudanese refugee, stating “He’s from Sudan and we do this all the time.”The Haskell’s go on claim that Abdulmutallab and the man in the suit were turned over to a manager down a hallway and they didn’t see him again until he was on the plane.
This story is completely false on a number of levels.
We’ll start with the basics:
– Airlines are required to transmit passenger lists to the United States prior to their departure, as per the TSA Secure Flight program
– Abdulmutallab would have been required to provide his passport number to the airline prior to receiving his boarding pass for his point of origin flight
– Passenger security screening at Schiphol Airport is conducted at the gate for all non-Schengen Flights, passengers must provide a passport and boarding pass to clear security
Now onto to the not-so basic aspects of this story being completely false…
…entering the United States as a refugee falls under the US Citizen & Immigration Services Section 208 of the Immigration & Naturalization Act, as created in 1952
Under USCIS Section 208 Abdulmutallab would have been required to fill out substantial paperwork proving refugee status. This paperwork cannot be filled out the same day as a flight, and certainly not at the airport.Paperwork, like all governmental paperwork must be processed and proper documentation will then issued to the person seeking to enter the United States with refugee status.
If Abdulmutallab were seeking Asylum status in the United States, he would have been required to already be in the United States, with a legal entry, then beginning the asylum status process.
Airport and airline staff aren’t authorized to overrule United States immigration laws. Airlines are very careful about passports and visas, as any airline that transports a person to the United States (or any other country) without proper documentation is not only required to cover the costs of flying the person out of the United States for deportation, but also faces significant fines levied against them.
No airline wants to deal with deportation costs or fines.
All relevant information pertaining to the rules and regulations regarding USCIS Section 208, INA, have been verified with Chief Ron Smith of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, DC.
It has previously been established that Abdulmutallab held a Nigerian passport and a valid Visa to the United States issued in June 2008, valid through June 2010.With more than 6 months left on Abdulmutallab’s Visa to the United States his legal status to board the flight would not have been challenged by the airline.
As the facts surrounding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Delta Air Lines Flight NW253 continue to unfold it is important to be factual on important issues, such as those pertaining to security issues.