SALDEF Working with TSA to Address Improper Screening of Sikh Americans at Nation’s Airports

May 21, 2007

Source: Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund Press Release’s%20Airports

Washington D.C. – May 21, 2007 – Over the past several months, SALDEF has lodged several complaints with the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) regarding Sikh Americans being required to either have their daastars (the Sikh religious head covering) patted down or in some cases removed completely, in violation of stated TSA protocols, prior to passing through airport check points at different airports across the country. In response to these complaints, SALDEF has initiated dialogue with leading officials of the TSA to address the communities’ concerns.

In each of the incidents, the Sikh American air travelers passed through the security check point metal detectors and the ‘puffer’ machine, which blows air at passengers to determine if they have any chemical residue on their person, without any alarm sounding. Subsequent to the successful security screening, TSA agents required that the Sikh American gentleman submit to a pat-down and/or remove their daastars for further inspection. These violations have occurred in a variety of locations including San Francisco, CA; Sacramento, CA; Salt Lake City, UT and most recently Buffalo, NY.

As explained in the DOT guidelines: “The security personnel should use the “but for” test to help determine the justification for their actions: “But for a person’s perceived race, ethnic heritage or religious orientation, would I have subjected this individual to additional safety or security scrutiny?” If the answer is “no” then the action is likely to be unjustified and violate civil rights laws.”