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INS Arrests 30 People at D.C. Airports

Aired April 23, 2002 - 13:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are being told the INS has arrested 30 people at the National and Dulles Airports. Our justice correspondent Kelli Arena joins us now to tell us what these arrests -- when it took place, why and more details -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, those arrests started at about 9:00 this morning. What happened was there was a sweep operation two Washington area airports, as you said, National and Dulles, that so far, 30 people have been arrested. These are people who are working at the airport who have some sort of immigration violation, either they've overstayed their visas or they've had false documentation. In some cases, they have been connected with other criminal activity while here in the United States that should have had their visas revoked.

We are told that that number could go higher, that 30 number could go higher as more people are brought in. These types of sweeps have been done at other airports around the nation. In Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, in Utah as well.

This is the result of the -- an upgrade in airport security after the September 11 attacks. The INS has said that they want to make sure that anyone that's working within our nation's airports are people who should be there because there are issues of security clearance and access to sensitive areas within those airports. We should be hearing more details about this later on this afternoon. At 3:30, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, will have a press conference outlining this continued operation and will give us a final number on the number of arrests made today, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelli, are these folks that were arrested -- did they have access to secure areas in the airports?

ARENA: They do. I mean, these are people who, for example, might be dealing with catering issues and getting on the plane or access to the tarmac. I mean, these are sensitive areas that the attorney general, the FBI, all law enforcement has agreed need to be upgraded.

But I want to underscore here these are as a result of the September 11 attacks, but we have no indication that any of these people that were taken into custody have anything to do with terrorism. These are just people who have been working at airports who have some sort of immigration violation and, therefore, were arrested on that count, not because they have any connection to any terrorist group or are under any suspicion involving that.

So, yes, but your question is a good one because these are areas that were not secure and there was a big review on airports that was done after 9/11. And they realized that there were many, many, vulnerabilities that need to be dealt with.

PHILLIPS: And it's an upgrade in security, like you said, that no doubt everybody will be very happy about. Justice correspondent Kelli Arena, thank you very much.

ARENA: You're welcome.

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