Washington D.C. – September 12, 2007: On Monday, representatives from the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the Sikh Coalition, and UNITED SIKHS, met with officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the Sikh American community's concerns about the TSA's recently revised headwear screening procedure. While our organizations are encouraged by remedial steps proposed by the TSA, we remain concerned that the new policy that singles out head-coverings, specifically the turban and equates it to other forms of non-religious head-coverings, remains in effect.
SALDEF, the Sikh Coalition, and UNITED SIKHS appreciate the steps that the TSA is taking to remedy the situation. Our organizations are committed to working with the TSA to find a solution to the Sikh American community's concerns, while keeping all Americans safe. However, we remain concerned that:
* The new TSA-issued screener guidance specifically cites the turban as an item that should be subject to secondary screening; * The new procedures grant screeners too much latitude to subject a Sikh to additional screening, a turban pat-down, or to remove the turban; and * The new policy endangers all Americans by focusing critical security resources on headwear when threat items that can be found anywhere on the body.
In preparation for the meeting, the three Sikh American organizations submitted a joint memorandum to the TSA late last week. The memorandum discussed the impact of the new screening procedure, introduced on August 4, 2007, on the Sikh turban. The memorandum proposed measures to revise the procedures with the objective of eliminating its disproportionate impact on the Sikh turban. At the meeting, a high level TSA official stated: "I want to apologize for not getting information out about the [policy] change on head coverings specifically out to [the Sikh American] community before the roll out. We will get better, I promise you."