Local News

Suspected Illegal Immigrants Prepare For Deportation Hearing

Posted April 1, 2005 6:00 a.m. EST

— Eleven suspected illegal immigrants, who flew into RDU International from Chicago on Tuesday, will appear in Charlotte Friday for a deportation hearing.

Their court appearance comes after questions about airline security after they flew into RDU International. Some used nothing more than a Mexican Voter ID card to get on a plane, but the agency in charge of airline security said it did nothing wrong.

Mexican voter registration cards and driver's licenses were all that the 11 Mexican nationals needed to board a Southwest flight Tuesday to RDU. Officials with the Transportation Security Administration said those forms of identification are legal for a domestic flight.

Immigration agent Tom O'Connell said in this day and age, it's a concern that someone could buy a ticket and board a plane with an ID that doesn't even have a date of birth.

"It's troublesome," he said. "There might be some people that are going to harm our country that would be able to board with very limited documentation."

The TSA said it is not its mission to check immigration status. Its purpose is to verify individuals and ensure the security of every plane.

Ron Woodard, of NC Listen, an immigration reform organization, said TSA just cannot ignore undocumented aliens.

"When people break the law, people break the law and we have to be accountable for it," he said.

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said it is another example of why the country's immigration policy needs an overhaul.

"The question is are we going to merge responsibilities for the entry requirements over to TSA and for once, are we going to create a database that can be entered by more agencies than just one to check the legal status of individuals," he said.

Officials said every one of the 11 illegal immigrants unsuccessfully tried to cross the border in Arizona in the last two weeks. A few had even been caught four times. Although immigration had a record of the men, under current rules, it is not the TSA's job to check them out.

Airports are not the only ones who accept the Mexican voter card as a valid form of ID. Up until last year, illegal immigrants could use them to get a drivers license in North Carolina.

There was a last-minute rush at DMV offices last year leading up to tough new license laws. Aside from Mexican voter ID cards, the DMV also stopped accepting forms from the Mexican consulate as well as Mexican military ID cards.