Skip to comments.34 Brazilian Illegal Alien Flight School Students Arrested–Set Free Pending Deportation Hearings
Posted on 11/05/2010 11:23:53 AM PDT by pabianice
STOW, MA Federal officials have arrested dozens of alleged illegal immigrants connected to a flight school in Stow, including the schools owner and students who received US government clearance to train as pilots despite strict security controls put into place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The arrests of 34 Brazilian nationals that began in July and concluded quietly last month raise troubling new questions about possible holes in the governments antiterrorism security net, which bans illegal immigrants from taking flight lessons and requires background checks on any foreigner training to fly in the United States.
No link to terrorism has been found in connection with the Stow flight school, TJ Aviation Flight Academy at Minute Man Air Field, 30 miles northwest of Boston, US immigration officials said.
All the arrested immigrants, who were learning to fly small single-engine planes, are free pending deportation hearings in federal immigration court, immigration officials said.
But the episode may have exposed problems in the Transportation Security Administrations ability to make sure the only foreign students allowed to attend flight school are, as its website states, properly checked, legal aliens.
That mandate stems from a 2004 order that TSA check all foreign flight students against terrorism, criminal and immigration databases after authorities discovered that several of the men who hijacked the airplanes used in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had received flight training in the United States.
TSA has faced questions before about its effectiveness in carrying out the order. In 2008 ABC News reported that thousands of foreign nationals were obtaining pilots licenses without the proper paperwork.
Officials at TSA and the Federal Aviation Administration, which issues pilots licenses, could not explain this week why alleged illegal immigrants were allowed to take classes and obtain pilots licenses in Stow.
TSA officials said they are conducting a review of the circumstances by which the immigrants obtained pilots licenses. Officials would not say how many students received clearance to fly and how many ultimately obtained pilots licenses.
However, TSA officials said they check the backgrounds of all foreign flight students and routinely check pilots licenses against terrorism watch lists.
TSA performs a thorough background check on each applicant at the time of application to include terrorism and other watch list matching, criminal history, and checking for available disqualifying immigration information, spokeswoman Ann Davis said in a statement. There is currently a review ongoing into the circumstances by which these individuals were issued pilots licenses.
Among those arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are the schools owner, Thiago DeJesus, a 26-year-old Brazilian immigrant who holds a license to fly single-engine airplanes and who was charged in July with being in the United States illegally, federal officials said. DeJesus continued to give flying lessons this week.
FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown confirmed that DeJesus is a licensed pilot and flight instructor but would not comment on the fact that his school is still open because the agency is investigating what she called safety issues in connection with the school. She declined to elaborate.
We have an ongoing investigation, she said.
Thousands of foreign pilots train in the United States every year because of the high quality and relatively low cost.
Foreigners who wish to take flight lessons must first register online with TSA and provide biographical information that the agency uses to determine if they are on terrorism watch lists, have criminal histories, or any disqualifying immigration information. Students are also fingerprinted and pay a fee.
Most applicants come from outside the country, said TSA spokesman Greg Soule.
Soule said TSA checks immigration information when prospective students apply. The agency does not follow up in every case to ensure that those who take classes obtain the necessary immigration documents.
Students must also show their passports and visas to their flight instructor, who must keep copies on file. TSA inspectors conduct unannounced audits to ensure that the records are in order.
By contrast, the FAA does not have any responsibility for checking the immigration status of flight students or pilots, Brown said. The agencys role is to ensure that pilots have completed proper training before they receive a pilots license, she said.
This week, TJ Aviation Flight Academy remained open for business, teaching students on Cessna and other single-engine airplanes at the air field off a quiet country road in this small town of about 6,000 people.
DeJesus, owner of TJ Aviation, denied in an interview that he is in the country illegally. He said he came to the country at age 16 from southern Brazil and is a legal resident. He declined to provide proof of residency.
Kathryn Mattingly, a federal immigration court spokeswoman, said DeJesus was accused in July of being in the United States illegally. He is scheduled for a deportation hearing in Boston in February.
FAA records show that DeJesus has a valid pilots license to fly single-engine airplanes and to teach flying. He registered TJ Aviation Inc. with the Massachusetts secretary of state in 2008 and said he has been teaching flying for two years.
DeJesus said that all of his foreign students obtained TSA approval before he allowed them to take classes, as the law requires, and that he did not know that they were in the country illegally. The students paid $165 an hour for the lessons, he said.
Its something that [TSA] approved in the first place, said DeJesus. Every student that we had went to the TSA, and TSA approved them.
Last month, he said, the TSA sent him an e-mail revoking approval for many of the students. Around the same time, he said, federal immigration agents arrested many of those same students for deportation.
He said he had followed the rules and pointed out that federal officials have allowed his flight school to remain open.
You think if we did something wrong, wed still be open as a flight school? he asked.
He said many students hope to earn their pilots licenses to get better jobs in their native Brazil.
In Brazil, being a pilot is almost like being a doctor, said DeJesus, who speaks fluent English. These are honest people. . . . They just want a better future.
William Joyce, a Boston-based immigration lawyer who is representing a few of TJ Aviations former students, said many of his clients felt betrayed by DeJesus. He said they wanted to take flying lessons but did not realize that they would be exposed to immigration checks. The assumption is perhaps naive, he said, since illegal immigrants are not even eligible for drivers licenses in Massachusetts.
All I know is this: these people are in big trouble, Joyce said.
How many of these illegals will actually show up for the court date? How the F... does an illegal alien get FAA approval for a flight school?
Isn’t it heartening to know that their backgrounds were checked, although they were ILLEGAL, and they were still allowed flight training? I feel so much better.
Whoever decided to let them go after arrest should stand in for them and take whatever punishment (including deportation) if they don’t show up. I’m sick and tired of these stories. No one is ever held accountable.
They applied to the school, no doubt laid out a ton of money to be there, got US government clearance, and now they are going to be sent back (no doubt, without the money they already spent).
How did the Feds pick these people to go after?
What is reported above suggests that the flight school owner never submitted to the FAA the students’ paperwork. If the CFI is also here illegally, why would he call attention to himself? I am familiar with the place. The flight school was last reported to consist of one elderly Cessna 172A — the first model from the 1950s with the balky C-145 six-banger that failed frequently (oil pan rot-out is common). At this stage of the game (engine over 50 years old), I doubt its reliability. One guy who came to my field after taking several lessons there in the old 172 said that on one lesson, the engine quit on final when carb heat was pulled. I suspect the FAA will also learn that no qualified maintenance has been done on this aircraft in a long time. As for the owner not knowing here was here illegally... you decide.
34 brazillian. that’s a lot.
34 Brazilian Illegal Alien Flight School Students...
"Wow--is that more than a trillion?"
Did they just want to learn how to steer, not take-off or land?
Sometimes I think we’re trying to commit national suicide.
This looks like a phony flight school. Its real purpose is to provide a way for Brazilians to legally enter the USA and never go home after alleged flying lessons.
How convenient that we find this out AFTER the election.
“How the F... does an illegal alien get FAA approval for a flight school?”
Surely you jest. I have a friend whose son is a commercial pilot and is having to work in Peru because of the shortage of jobs...I guess for Americans.
Stow-Away Flight School?
Channel 2 Uncovers Proof Terrorists Crossed Mexican Border - November 2, 2010
ATLANTA — The U.S. Border Patrol has captured thousands of people they say are classified as OTM which stands for “other than Mexican.” Documents show many of them are from terrorists nations like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. Federal authorities call those groups SIAs, which stands for “special interest aliens”.
Federal officials have offered few details about the number of actual terrorists caught along the border.
Retired immigration agent Michael Cutler says the actual threat is being covered up. “Incredibly the government is attempting to keep the citizens like a bunch of mushrooms. Keep us in the dark and feed us a bunch of manure.”
Government officials have denied that terrorists have crossed our open border. Still, Channel 2 Action News has proof they have. Channel 2 Anchor Justin Farmer found documents filed in federal court in San Antonio, Texas, in May. They show an indictment against Ahmed Muhammad Dhakane for allegedly smuggling hundreds of people from Brazil to Mexico, then into the U.S. The federal indictment states it includes some Somalis from the terrorist group Al Shabob. Terrorism experts say the group is responsible for terrorist attacks and suicide bombings worldwide.
“To this day we do not know where those 300 Somalis are,” said Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. “We do know they are in the United States.”
A 2009 Government Accounting Office report confirmed agents have picked up three known terrorists who crossed the southwestern border of the United States. No other information was released.
“There are many people not only being apprehended, but slipping through the cracks on our southern flank that are very dangerous,” said McCaul.
Intelligence officials have admitted on record there is a terrorism threat. In 2007, former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell told the El Paso Times that terrorists have been crossing the border. He said there are many situations where people are alive today because the terrorists were caught.
Sheriffs along the southwestern U.S. border also are aware of the threat.
“There is (intelligence) we have that is very troubling”, said Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Ariz. “Things are not getting better, they are getting worse.”
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