(Washington, DC) April 2, 2010 - The Sikh Coalition welcomes today's rescission of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) fourteen (14) country screening policy. The policy --- enacted as a reaction to the thwarted Christmas Day 2009 airline attack --- automatically subjected all nationals of 14 countries to full-body pat downs.
Because the policy focused solely on national origin and not individual behavior, it effectively made profiling the law of the United States. Its withdrawal is a step in the right direction towards ending federal government profiling.
New Policy Does Not Mean the End of Extra Scrutiny for Minorities
Despite public assurances that the TSA does not conduct ethnic or religious profiling, the Sikh experience continues to be the opposite. The Sikh Coalition's periodic "report cards" on the issue make clear that at some US airports, Sikhs experience a 100% rate of secondary screening.
Thus, though official TSA policy prohibits profiling, Sikh air travelers experience a de facto policy of profiling at some U.S. airports. This is because the TSA grants airport screeners within and outside the United States broad discretion to individually choose which passengers to pull aside for extra screening.
It is the Sikh Coalition's position that law enforcement, including aviation security, should be directed to specific threats in a neutral manner that focuses on actual criminal behavior. It should not be directed towards national origin, religion, or race. The Coalition calls upon the federal government to adopt safeguards to ensure that air travel policies which are neutral on their face are also neutral in their application.
It is the Coalition's intention to continue fighting to ensure Sikhs and other minorities are not the subject of unfair scrutiny by air travel security. If you believe you have been unfairly targeted at an airport, please report your experience here.