House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (DQueens, the Bronx) urged the Transportation Security Administration to reelevate their processes for screening Sikhs and Sikh Americans, following an incident when Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains was twice asked to remove his turban when traveling in the United States. During an official trip to Michigan, Bains was first asked to remove his turban after already passing through the metal detector and then was again asked to remove the religious garb at his gate. Mr. Bains was also subjected to additional screenings and a swab test, which he passed. A TSA spokesman said that the TSA officer in question did not follow standard operating procedures and would receive additional training.
In 2007, TSA protocol was updated, allowing passengers to keep their turbans on during screenings.
In a letter to Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske, Chairman Crowley asked TSA to review how the agency is approaching Sikhs and SikhAmericans for screening.
“I appreciate the hard work that TSA carries out every day in protecting the American people. At the same time, Sikhs and SikhAmericans have informed me that situations like this are emblematic of their ongoing concerns regarding screenings. In light of these concerns, I would appreciate any information you can provide with respect to how issues affecting the broader Sikh and Sikh-American communities are approached by TSA, including what standards warrant secondary screening. I also understand that what happened with respect to Mr. Bains wasn’t carried out according to normal protocols and I am interested in knowing the steps that TSA has already taken or could take to expand education with an aim toward preventing these situations from occurring in the future,” wrote Chairman Crowley.
Chairman Crowley’s request to TSA was supported by the Sikh Coalition, which advocates for the rights of Sikhs in the United States and worldwide.
“It clear that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires cultural competency training and review of its procedures and policies, given the incidents of TSA discrimination against observant Sikhs,” said Sikh Coalition National Advocacy Manager Sim J. Singh. “Profiling travelers on the basis of their race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or nationality makes our country less secure by diverting resources and attention away from actual threats.”
Chairman Crowley has long worked to protect the religious freedom of Sikh-Americans and advance civil rights in athletics, the military, the New York Police Department, and the community at large.