July 1, 2014 (New York, NY) – Since the launch of the FlyRights phone application, your Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening complaints have made a positive difference! Here is an update on the outcome of three TSA complaints filed by Sikh air passengers in the past year, either through the Sikh Coalition and/or FlyRights. Keep them coming! We can only hold the government accountable if we step up and report screening violations when they occur. Scroll down or click on the links below to read more.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Secondarily Screens TSA Pre✓™ Passenger Complaint: On October 15, 2013, Mr. Daman Deep Singh, a member of the TSA Pre✓™ Program, was secondarily screened in violation of TSA standard operating procedures at the Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport (DFW). Despite clearing the initial metal detector, Mr. Singh was forced to submit to a self pat-down of his turban. Unfortunately, his hand swab test resulted in a “nuisance alarm” and he was made to remove his turban. Result: The TSA Office of Civil Rights & Liberties Division in Washington D.C. immediately flew its team to DFW and launched an investigation, which concluded that Mr. Singh was inappropriately secondarily screened. TSA ordered the immediate re-training of all DFW Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) on appropriate screening policies for Pre✓™ passengers. Specifically, TSOs were informed that a turbaned Sikh traveler, like every other passenger in the TSA Pre✓™ Program, should not be secondarily screened, unless s/he is selected for random screening or sounds an alarm during initial screening.Because of this incident, the TSA instituted a nation-wide re-training program for its officers regarding screening of turbaned Sikh TSA Pre✓™ passengers. The TSA apologized to Mr. Singh and he has not experienced screening problems since this incident. “Right after the screening, I asked the TSA crew for a complaint form and they took almost 20 minutes to provide me one. They didn’t offer me any information on how to file a complaint. I didn’t want to let this go for the sake of our community and that’s when I called the Sikh Coalition. The Sikh Coalition staff drafted my legal complaint within hours and submitted it to the appropriate authorities within the TSA. The investigation went very fast and I was constantly informed about the progress by Sikh Coalition attorneys. The TSA had a conference call with me at the end to share the investigation results and their follow up action plan. I have traveled numerous times after that incident and have clearly noticed a shift in TSA practices. I sincerely thank the Sikh Coalition for providing Sikhs a solid legal platform to address religious discrimination!” – Daman Deep Singh
Los Angeles International Airport Denies Sikh a Turban Self Pat-Down Complaint: On March 3, 2014, Dr. Dave Singh was denied a self pat-down at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) during secondary screening. The TSO forcibly patted down Dr. Singh’s Sikh turban and incorrectly informed him that the “policy of allowing self pat-downs” had changed. Result: The TSA found that Dr. Singh was inappropriately screened and LAX disciplined the TSO accordingly. The Transportation Security Officers at LAX were all re-trained regarding screening of Sikh air passengers. “I have been traveling frequently these past few weeks and seem to notice a mellowing of the TSA treatment of Sikhs. I hope this trend continues, which is, no doubt, related to the Sikh Coalition’s efforts.” –Dr. Dave Singh
Sikh Forced to Remove Turban at Detroit Metropolitan Airport Complaint: On September 7, 2013, Harleen Kaur was forced to remove her turban at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Ms. Kaur passed through the body scanner and was asked to step aside for additional screening. A TSO waved a hand-held wand over her turban and it alarmed because of her hair pins. Instead of asking Ms. Kaur to remove her pins, which most officers have done in the past, the TSO made her remove her turban in a private screening area. Ms. Kaur was not permitted a mirror to re-tie her turban, which had been thoroughly searched and left disheveled. Ms. Kaur immediately filed a complaint through her FlyRights phone application. Result: The TSA found that Ms. Kaur’s screening did not “appear to be consistent with TSA’s standard operating procedures.” The complaint was subsequently forwarded to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport for corrective action. “Before I used FlyRights, I felt helpless when there was an incident while traveling, or when I saw my family members pulled aside. I knew that these incidents created negative images about Sikhs. With FlyRights, I have been able to report my cases to the TSA, the Sikh Coalition, and my members of Congress without delay, and I have absolutely seen results. The TSA is responding to our issues, and I know that there will be a day when I can walk through airport security without fear of my Sikhi being questioned.” – Harleen Kaur For questions on how to file a complaint with the TSA or on TSA screening policies, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s Legal Program. You can learn how to download FlyRights here.