Monday, November 29, 1999

Sikh group asks US lawmakers to stop racial profiling

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American Sikh community leaders have complained US lawmakers that they were experiencing racial profiling, mostly during travel, after 9/11 and the trend has increased of late."It's not fair. It's not safe," complained Amarjeet Singh, programme director of advocacy group Sikh Coalition, in his testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.Asking them to intervene to end their ordeal, the Sikh leaders have urged the US lawmakers to take immediate steps to end this profiling.The sub-committee held rare Congressional hearing on racial profiling amid increasing complaints of incessant and increasing marking in the US of minorities and coloured people, particularly at airports.Singh, himself, narrated before the sub-committee a recent incident where he and his son were subject to undue harassment at a US airport."My son and my community are being effectively collectively punished and there is no actual law enforcement benefit in exchange for this collective punishment. We are profiling Sikhs and we are losing as a result," Singh said."We need this Subcommittee and this Congress to put an end to this senseless and dangerous dynamic if our law enforcement leaders who profess an aversion to profiling cannot," he argued.Congresswoman Judy Chu from California introduced a written testimony on behalf of UNITED SIKHS, another advocacy group, which addressed the concerns of racial profiling of Sikhs at US airports."Unfortunately, as our community knows, Sikhs have routinely faced discriminatory practices at airports across US," said the written testimony submitted by UNITED SIKHS on racial profiling geared toward Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policies that unfairly targeted Sikhs.This testimony emphasised the inconsistent policies regarding secondary inspections by Transportation Security Officers, the lack of training, oversight, and unfettered discretion of TSOs, and the unfair targeting of a community that presents no national security risk to the US, it said."Racial profiling threatens the very fabric of our nation's civil rights protections," said Chu.The Congresswoman suggested that TSA work to fix these problems by introducing legislation to allow private action and get data, and then announced she would be writing a letter to TSA asking them for data about complaints and racial profiling for Sikhs and all other ethnic groups.Testifying before the same committee, Farhana Khera of the Muslim Advocates organisation, said since 9/11, Muslim Americans and those perceived to be Muslims - including Arabs, South Asians, Middle Easterners and Sikhs -- have been subjected to heightened scrutiny by federal law enforcement."These discriminatory law enforcement policies and practices are contrary to our nation's promise of equal protection and equal treatment under the laws," she said."Not only is racial profiling wrong, it is ineffective," Khera said."The fact that racial profiling is still a common tactic among so many law enforcement agencies is, frankly, startling, given that it has been proven to be an inefficient, offensive and counter-productive tool," Khera said.Hillary Shelton of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

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