‘Sikhs should expect screening of turbans at US airports’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington: A Sikh community advocacy group has warned the community to be prepared for the “reality that Sikhs should now always expect to be secondarily screened at American airports.”

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The warning was issued by The Sikh Coalition in its revised guidance for “Airport Screening Procedures as Applied to Sikh Travellers and Your Rights as a Sikh Air Traveller.”

“Significantly, Sikhs should now expect to be secondarily screened 100 percent of the time at American airports, even after passing through so-called Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines,” it said.

“Although Transportation Security Administration (TSA) publicly asserts on its website that such machines can see through ‘layers of clothing,’ the TSA has made clear in both word and practice that such machines are not powerful enough to see through Sikh turbans,” the group said.

“This means that, for Sikhs, the new AIT machines will lead to more — not less — screening of turbans.”

The changes in it guidance have been prompted by feedback from the Sikh community and multiple meetings with officials at the Transportation TSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it said.

Rejecting the TSA’s policy as “unfair and unsafe”, the Sikh Coalition said it is working with key lawmakers to change it.

Meanwhile four members of US Congress have also expressed support for the Sikh community.

In response to concerns raised by the Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs, Representatives Judy Chu, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Bobby Scott and Melvin Watt last week sent a letter of inquiry to TSA.

The letter asks the TSA to respond to a series of questions about its anti-profiling policies; its use of AIT machines; its protocol for resolving traveller complaints in a timely manner; and the need for TSA to undertake an audit of its screening policies.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])