President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for his proposed border wall has crippled major airports around the nation as TSA agents go unpaid.
CNN reports that hundreds of TSA officers who are being forced to work without pay as the shutdown stretches into its third week have been calling out sick from major airports en masse.
"This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect," Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.
According to the report, up to 170 TSA workers called out each day of the week at New York’s JFK Airport. The number of workers who called out sick at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has increased by up to 300 percent. Other airports, like those in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, have also experienced spikes in TSA employee call outs.
"That number will get worse as this drags on,” North Carolina TSA union leader Mac Johnson told the network, adding that the issue was “creating a vulnerability.”
A union official told CNN that “while some employees are upset about the pay, officers have said they are calling in sick for more practical reasons. Single parents can no longer afford child care or they are finding cash-paying jobs outside of government work to pay their rent and other bills.”
The TSA and the Department of Homeland Security have been without funding since December 22. Roughly 55,000 TSA workers have been tasked with working without pay.
TSA downplays problem:
"Call outs began over the Holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimal impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process," TSA spokesman Michael Bilello told CNN, adding that 99.8% of passengers waited less than 30 minutes. "Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change."
"Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs," Bilello said. "TSA is grateful to the agents who show up to work, remain focused on the mission and respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the nation's transportation systems.”
Security put at risk over Trump’s wall demand:
The shutdown has continued because of Trump’s demand for border wall funding. But even as the White House pushed a debunked statistic that border agents have stopped nearly 4,000 suspected terrorists, the Department of Homeland Security reports that those stops have been mainly at airports, not the Mexican border.
“No immigrant has been arrested at the southwest border on terrorism charges in recent years,” NBC News reported.