United States

Passengers Demand Answers Following Intense Customs Scrutiny at JFK Airport

An official said a specific person was being sought

When Kelley Amadei disembarked from Delta Flight 1583 with her wife and son at Kennedy Airport Wednesday, she didn't expected to be greeted by two Customs and Border Protection agents standing at the jet bridge entrance.

Amadei says that as the flight from San Francisco was taxiing to the gate, a flight attendant told passengers to have their travel documents ready for inspection before leaving the plane.

Once she and her family exited, the agent studied their identification cards, glancing between her and the ID before, focusing his gaze on her 7-year-old son. She says she's never experienced anything like it before.

"It didn't feel normal. I've been on a million domestic flights, I didn't ever have that experience," she said.

"He studied my ID, for sure. I was checking because I was thinking maybe they were looking for someone in particular, but they didn't have a manifest in their hands that I could see so they were just checking IDs," she said. 

Passengers on the flight called the experience unnerving amid heightened tensions in recent times. They're demanding answers about CBP officers blocking the exit and checking IDs.

Amadei was so concerned about her experience, she doubled back to the gate to speak to the officers. 

"He said, 'It's not for you to to worry about, we do it from time to time,'" she recounted. "I said, 'I've been on a thousand flights, I used to travel three weeks out of the month. I never had it happen on a domestic flight and I've never had it happen on an international flight.' He just looked at me and said 'leave it alone.'"

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said Thursday afternoon they were looking for a specific person. 

"This individual was ordered removed by an immigration judge," he said in a statement to NBC 4 New York. "To assist our law enforcement partners, two CBP officers requested identification from those on the flight in order to help identify the individual. The individual was determined not to be on the flight."

The spokesman added that the CBP does this regularly, and that the process started after 9/11. He said this case was a little different because they didn't have a picture of who they were looking for, just a name.

A spokesperson for Delta didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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