Around 16 Congressmen signed off to a letter asking the Transportation Security Administration — the federal agency responsible for security of airports in the country — to stop racial profiling of people from South Asia and West Asia, including Black, Sikhs and Muslims travellers.

“Despite efforts to prevent profiling by its screeners, news reports indicate that (TSA) Transportation Security Administration screeners continue to subject Sikh, South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Black travellers to profiling. In the past few months incidents have occurred at airports in Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Jersey,” Congressman Judy Chu said in his dear colleague letter urging them to sign the letter addressed to the TSA Administrator, John S. Pistole.

A dear colleague letter is a letter sent by one member of a legislative body to all fellow members, usually describing a new bill and asking for cosponsors or seeking to influence the recipients’ votes on an issue.

At the time of sending the dear colleague letter, as many as 16 Congressmen had signed the letter addressed to Pistole bringing to his notice the racial, ethnic and religious profiling occurring at US airports.

“This past August, news reports indicated that (TSA) Transportation Security Administration screeners at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts subjected minorities to profiling, in particular Latinos, blacks and those who appeared to be from West Asia. Similar allegations have been made in recent months about TSA screeners at airports in Hawaii and New Jersey,” the letter said.

“Although there were reports that these screeners are being retrained in these locations, this is not enough. We therefore request a briefing on everything that TSA is doing to address racial, ethnic and religious profiling which continues to be an issue for the Sikh, South Asian, Arab, Muslim, Hispanic and Black travellers,” the Congressmen say in the letter.

“Additionally, to fully understand the pervasiveness and adequately address racial profiling at TSA, the agency must undertake an independent audit of its screening practices at our nation’s airports to determine whether its screeners are profiling travellers based on race, ethnicity and religion,” the letter said.

“In 2009, TSA concluded that they have the capacity to undertake an independent audit but decided that it was not necessary because the new Advanced Imaging Technologies (AIT) machines would resolve profiling concerns. But this did not prove to be true,” it said.

“Sikhs, who are religiously required to wear turbans, report being set aside for secondary pat-downs 100 per cent of the time at some airports, even after passing through AIT machines without incident. An independent audit would ensure the TSA can adequately address any profiling within the agency, ultimately making all Americans feel safer and more secure at our nation’s airports,” the letter said.

(This article was published on December 18, 2012)
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