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Although the new guidance explicitly recognizes that discriminatory profiling is “unfair” and “ineffective,” and that biased practices “promote mistrust of law enforcement, and perpetuate negative and harmful stereotypes” – it still allows discriminatory profiling by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Both agencies are components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the largest law enforcement agency in the federal government.
“The guidance is like a used car with new paint. The car looks better, but once you look underneath the hood, you realize it’s unsafe to drive,” said Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy at the Sikh Coalition.
Apart from leaving ethnic and religious minorities vulnerable to continuing discrimination, the new guidance does not apply to state and local law enforcement activities and will not address gaps in trust at the grassroots level between police and the communities they serve. Within hours of learning that the Guidance was deeply flawed, the Sikh Coalition moved to petition the White House and Congress, engaged media, sent a protest letter to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, and incorporated concerns into written testimony to the U.S. Senate for a Tuesday hearing on civil rights in America.
Since the inception of TSA, the Sikh Coalition has led efforts to promote accountability at the agency, in particular by repeatedly demanding an independent audit of TSA screening practices to prevent discriminatory profiling. In response to persistent complaints of profiling from turbaned Sikhs at American airports, the Sikh Coalition in April 2012 launched a free smartphone app called FlyRights, which allows travelers of any background to file official complaints with the TSA. In the last year alone, the Sikh Coalition secured re-training of TSA personnel after the agency mistreated three turbaned Sikh travelers.