CHICAGO, IL — Department of Homeland Security agents searched bags at the Addison Red line station on the CTA Tuesday morning.
DHS officers, along with Chicago Police, “were conducting random bag checks at CTA Addison Red Line station today,” according to an emailed statement from Chicago Police, which went on to say that such checks occur at random places around the city multiple times a week as officers swab bags for explosives.
Red Line riders soon posted about the checkpoints on social media:
stopped at the Addison CTA stop by Homeland Security for a "random bag check." …what?
— Abby Seitz (@abby_seitz) February 14, 2017
The authority for these checkpoints comes from VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention & Response) program, which allow federal agents to conduct random searches far away from any border to protect the security of transportation infrastructure, a DHS spokesperson confirmed to Chicagoist.
The most recent audit of the Transportation Security Administration program found it operated with limited “credible threat information” and little direction, and “some TSA officials expressed concern that VIPR operation locations and timing are not based on risk-based methodology or credible intelligence.”
The Chicago Transit Authority also acknowledged the checkpoint on Twitter and said Wednesday it doesn’t “participate or support” any activity to check immigration status on its system.
A statement on rumors of immigration ID checks on CTA…These rumors are false and we want you to know all are welcome on CTA. pic.twitter.com/qTZsKY1aRS
— cta (@cta) February 15, 2017
Recent detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago have left Chicago residents more sensitive than usual to the presence of federal agents on the CTA.
Early reports Tuesday suggested the Addison checkpoints may have been ICE agents, although the agency denied it was involved to Chicagoist.
Here’s a TSA video from explaining the role of VIPR teams: