Last December, a woman was arrested for bringing foreign students from Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan to train at her southern California flight school with fraudulent visas. “She is not scrutinizing people, nor does she have the ability to know whether or not they have terrorist ties, which is why the whole procedure exists,” Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said in an interview after the arrest. “These people are actually going up in the air to get their training – they’re getting access to aircraft, too – and we don’t know who they are.”
This was not a one-time event. At a Boston-area flight school in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE division discovered 25 illegal immigrants who were enrolled and taking flight lessons. “That’s not the worst of it,” Representative Rogers notes. “The owner of the flight school was also here illegally.” The aspiring student pilots had nonetheless been approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to take the lessons, despite their illegal immigration status.