Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) on Monday commended the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for retraining its employees to avoid racial profiling, but said the effort was only “a first step.”
“Time and again, we hear from the TSA that they don’t profile based on race or religion – however, reports from travelers suggest otherwise,” she said in a statement. “The reports of racial profiling in Boston, Honolulu, and Newark raise questions about TSA’s methods.”
“And as a Member of the Judiciary Committee, I have heard firsthand the anguished accounts of Sikh Americans who were pulled out of lines at airports for additional screening just because they were wearing a turban, where even their babies were searched. This mistreatment only reinforces common stereotypes of turbaned or bearded individuals as being ‘suspect,'” Chu added.
More than 30 federal officers involved in a new behavioral screening program at Boston Logan International Airport have alleged that the program targeted ethnic minorities.
The Behavior Detection Officer pilot program began last year at Logan International Airport. In the new “Assessor” screenings, TSA officers ask passengers a few personal questions and look for signs that they may be hiding something. Suspicious passengers are sent to a secondary screening or referred to a law enforcement officer.
Chu said that Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans were being disproportionately targeted for screenings.
TSA spokesman David Castelveter said in August that the TSA trainees would be taking an “online learning center refresher course to reinforce that racial/ethnic profiling will not be tolerated.”