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Mon, May 13, 2013

Senators Raise Concerns About Abu Dhabi Preclearance Center

Letter To DHS Secretary Napolitano Questions Agency's Authority To Make The Agreement

A bipartisan group of 11 U.S. Senators has sent a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano (pictured) asking for an explanation of the department's decision to establish a preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport, going against recent direction from Congress and enabling a foreign government to pay for core security functions.

In the letter , Senators Dan Coats (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and nine of their colleagues expressed significant concerns over the agency’s authority to enter into the agreement, as well as the dangerous precedent it sets.

In April, DHS directly defied Congress’ clear guidance in the FY 2013 continuing appropriations act by signing an agreement to establish a customs preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi Airport, a facility no U.S. carrier serves. Domestic Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities are partially funded by the airlines and passengers entering the United States through $1.5 billion in annual taxes they pay.

“We question whether the Department has the authorization to enter into such an agreement, and we are concerned by the precedent being set by the department’s actions,” the letter notes. “By establishing a foreign funded preclearance operation at an airport with so little traffic bound for the United States, we question whether the Department is choosing preclearance locations based on risk or based on a pay-to-play process.”

No U.S. airlines fly to Abu Dhabi, and only one state-owned Middle Eastern carrier serves the U.S. from Abu Dhabi.

“Reducing wait times at U.S. airports should be a top priority of DHS and CBP -- not using U.S. tax dollars to benefit a foreign government, particularly when wait times at U.S. points of entry continue to be excessive,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio (pictured). “We thank Senators Dan Coats (R-IN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for their bipartisan leadership to demand answers over this ill-conceived decision, which harms U.S. citizens, jobs, the economy and the global competitiveness of the U.S. airline industry.”

A4A recently launched a campaign calling on the Department of Homeland Security to drop its plan to provide preclearance U.S. national security services at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Joining A4A in this national call to action are the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), Consumer Travel Alliance, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), and the Regional Airline Association (RAA).

FMI: www.DrawtheLineHere.com, http://coats.senate.gov

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