For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
As I have said many times since becoming Secretary, preclearance operations at foreign airports -- where each traveler undergoes immigration, customs, and agriculture inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection before boarding a direct flight to the United States -- is a homeland security imperative. We should take every responsible opportunity we have to detect and intercept threats before they actually reach the homeland. The Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009 showed us that terrorists may try to conduct attacks on U.S.-bound airplanes even before they’ve landed here. Preclearance operations also facilitate lawful travel by reducing the number of passengers who need to clear customs at the largest U.S. airports, which reduces wait times for everyone.
To date, we have deployed CBP officers to 15 air preclearance locations in six countries: at Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; in Aruba; at Freetown and Nassau in the Bahamas; in Bermuda; at Calgary, Toronto - Pearson, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg in Canada. Earlier this year, we opened a preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.
Last year, CBP cleared over 16 million passengers through these preclearance locations. At Abu Dhabi, CBP has so far this year processed approximately 290,000 passengers and crew, resulting in shortened lines at domestic airports such as JFK and Chicago O’Hare. More significantly, CBP officers stationed in Abu Dhabi have refused admission on to airplanes bound for the U.S. to over 450 persons, including several individuals on the Terrorism Screening Database. Also, by interdicting these persons on the ground at the foreign airport, we have saved the taxpayer huge amounts in detention and removal costs.
At the Department of Homeland Security, we are pursuing a strategy to build preclearance operations at additional foreign airports. We have initiated a process for foreign airports and host governments to express an interest in preclearance operations and expect responses by the end of this month. We are focusing on key airports in Europe and Asia. We are also in productive conversations with CEOs of U.S. airlines, who fully support promoting aviation security. Our goal is to begin formal negotiations for an additional set of preclearance airports in 2015.
I salute the men and women of CBP for their good work at preclearance locations. As with the statement I issued last week about the multiple gun seizures by TSA so far this year, I want the American people to know about the good work our CBP personnel are doing overseas every day to protect the homeland and the public.