Passengers who have the temerity to fly out of the country without a valid visa are now subject to a $1,000 fine and up to two months in jail for each flight.
The TSA is issuing the fines to passengers who were on duty in airports nationwide between June 29 and Aug. 4.
The fines were introduced to the agency’s Passengers Transportation Security Administration program.
The move follows a series of incidents where passengers have been arrested, and some have been charged with violating the law.
On Aug. 1, an American Airlines passenger was arrested for allegedly flying in a plane without a U.S. passport, even though the airline has one.
The passenger was released on bond and told he will not be deported.
The following day, an airline passenger was charged with boarding without a passport, a misdemeanor, after being pulled over on Interstate 25 in San Diego for a minor traffic violation.
On Thursday, an AirTran commuter plane was diverted to Denver because a passenger was detained for more than 20 minutes, police said.
Passengers can expect more fines and more trouble.
“We know that our employees have to be focused on the safety of their passengers and employees, and we’re taking a hard look at the enforcement of this policy,” TSA spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement.
The first violation comes as the agency continues to investigate a spate of incidents that include travelers being turned away at security checkpoints, passengers being denied boarding and passengers being detained at airports because they didn’t have a valid passport.
This latest incident, which began with a Passengers Travel Trailer, has caused some concern among some travelers, who are concerned about the government overstepping its authority.
“This is a bad policy,” said Michelle A. Williams, a retired AirTravail executive who was a passenger in a previous incident.
“They’re going to go after people that are doing nothing wrong.”
In the past few weeks, the TSA has issued two fines to a passenger for flying without a ticket, including one for failing to declare an expense.
The new policy will affect a majority of travelers, but those with valid passports could be targeted for the first time.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m arrested for not being a U and I’m in a state of detention,” said Alyssa E. Wilson, who was stopped at Denver International Airport last week.
“You don’t get to go home, but you get to sit in a hotel room and watch your money disappear.”
Alyssalena A. Brown, a San Francisco resident who recently flew out of Denver, said the new rules are a blow to her ability to make long-distance travel.
“If they can make this an issue for my family, I don’t think I’m going to want to go,” she said.
“It’s a terrible burden on people who can’t travel, and it puts them in an even worse situation.”
Brown, who has a six-month-old son, has traveled to Europe for work and has planned to return to the U.s. on Aug. 10.
“For people who don’t have passports, I know it’s going to be a long process, but I really hope it’s not a long, difficult process,” she told CBS News.
“My son, who I love very much, needs to get home and be with me.”
A spokeswoman for the TSA said the agency will continue to work with law enforcement to enforce the new policy.
“While this is a new and aggressive policy, we will continue our focus on the enforcement and compliance of our existing laws to ensure the safety and security of our passengers and to prevent fraud and abuse,” she wrote in an email.
“The policy was adopted in response to an increased number of cases of travel security officers being denied entry into the United States.
We encourage our agents to remain vigilant and enforce existing laws.”
The agency also announced new enforcement actions, including: The TSA will stop all travel to certain countries and airports.