New Airport Security Screening Procedure Affects Sikh Turban
SALDEF meets with TSA to address community concerns and complaints
Washington D.C. – August 24, 2007: On Wednesday the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation’s oldest and largest Sikh American civil rights organization, met with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discuss the impact on Sikh Americans of the recently implemented changes to security screening procedures at the Nation’s airports.
The new airport security screening procedures implemented on August 4, 2007, allow the Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) greater “discretion” regarding passenger screening and to enforce additional screening for individuals who wear head coverings. As per the TSA, the new procedure is aimed at head coverings that can possibly hide a threatening non-metallic object. The guidance regarding the new screening procedure, provided to the 43,000 TSOs, lists the Sikh turban among others (cowboy hats, straw hats, etc.), as an example of head coverings that may potentially hide a threatening non-metallic object.
The Sikh turban is the only religious head covering cited in the list of example head coverings provided to the TSA airport security screeners. The new procedures explicitly exempts skull caps (religious or not) from the new screening process. Under the old procedure, travelers would only be required to undergo additional security screening if they were unable to successfully clear the metal detector or if they wore loose fitting clothing.
SALDEF expressed the Sikh American community’s outrage regarding the discriminatory nature of the new procedure. SALDEF further expressed its disappointment in the lack of any consultation with the Sikh American community prior to finalizing and rolling out the new screening procedures.
“We are deeply troubled at the potentially marginalizing effects this policy revision has on the Sikh American community,” said Board Chairman Manjit Singh. “While the need for securing our nation’s airports is undeniably important, the new screening procedures directly “profile” the Sikh American community and other communities of faith. We are encouraged by TSA and DHS’s willingness to address the concerns faced by the Sikh American community. We look forward to a continued dialogue to adequately address and resolve the community’s concerns.”
To assist the Sikh community to effectively handle the new airport security screening procedures, SALDEF has created a guide called “How to Respond to a Request to Search Your Turban” to use during their air travel. We recommend that you download, print and carry a copy with you during your air travel.
For more information on your rights as a passenger, please see below:
SALDEF working with TSA to Address Improper Security Screening of Sikh Americans at Nation’s Airports
New Procedure Announced for Individuals to Clear their Name from TSA Watch Lists
SALDEF: Airport Security and Your Rights as a Passenger (revised 8/22/07)