Men walk near a reinforced section of the US-Mexico border fence as seen from Tijuana, Mexico. Picture: Guillermo Arias/AFP
Men walk near a reinforced section of the US-Mexico border fence as seen from Tijuana, Mexico. Picture: Guillermo Arias/AFP

Washington — The Trump administration plans to redirect Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff to the US southern border to assist with immigration duties and migrant flows, the TSA said on Wednesday.

A TSA spokesperson said that the bureau was looking for volunteers to support efforts at the US border with Mexico, where the government has said it is grappling with record numbers of people.

“TSA, like all department of homeland security components, is supporting the DHS effort to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border. TSA is in the process of soliciting volunteers to support this effort while minimising operational impact,” TSA spokesperson James Gregory said. 

The TSA border assignment will last at least 45 days and comes at the start of the busy summer travel season, which a US official acknowledged carried “some risk”, CNN reported, citing an internal e-mail it obtained.

TSA staff will include 175 law enforcement officials, including air marshals, and as many as 400 security staff drawn from six US cities but will not include airport screeners, CNN said, citing two additional unnamed sources. The six cities were not immediately identified.

TSA law enforcement officials sent to the border will receive legal training and assist the customs and border protection department as immigration officers, the report said.

The decision comes as the airline and travel industry urge lawmakers to approve funding for more customs and border patrol officers, warning of excessive wait times for travelling and shipping as officers have been shifted to the border.

The department of interior has also doubled the number of officers it is sending for three-week stints to the border, from 22 to 47, The Hill reported on Wednesday, citing an internal memorandum.

An interior department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The US government reported earlier in May that border officers had apprehended nearly 99,000 people crossing the border with Mexico in April, the highest figure since 2007. More than two-thirds of those apprehended were children or people travelling as families.

Reuters