Sikh testifies before the US Congress on Racial Profiling issue June 25, 2010 by Sikh Coalition Newsletter (Washington, DC) June 23, 2010- "t is my humble submission today that the use by law enforcement of classifications based on race, national origin, religion, or ethnicity has severely undermined both our liberty and our safety. As the experience of the Sikh American community makes clear, the use of these classifications by law enforcement is invariably inaccurate, inevitably misused, and ultimately detrimental to the important work of our men and women in uniform. In short, we profile, we lose," the Sikh Coalition testified before a U.S. Congressional Committee on Thursday, June 17. The hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties was entitled, "Racial Profiling and the Use of Suspect Classifications in Law Enforcement." To the Coalition's knowledge, the hearing marked the first time a Sikh testified before the United States Congress on an issue of national significance. The testimony, which condemned the profiling of Sikhs at U.S. airports, went on to explain that Sikhs traveling in the United States have consistently been subjected to additional secondary searches, even after successfully passing through airport metal detectors. Such searches of Sikhs are often conducted in full public view, usually in a segregated glass box. The screening typically involves a public pat down of a Sikh's turban (many Sikhs do not know that they have the option of a private screening), and in some rare instances even its removal. Fellow airline passengers often view Sikhs being pulled aside for extra screening by officers, thereby undermining confidence in Sikh passengers. The Coalition testimony highlighted the fact that Sikhs are subjected to these searches 100% of the time at some airports around the country. Through surveys of Sikh community members, the Coalition believes that Sikhs are subjected to 100% secondary screening at Oakland International Airport, O'Hare International Airport, and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. These searches occur despite official assertions from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it does not engage in profiling. The testimony also underscored the fact that while an array of law enforcement officials state that profiling is ineffective, profiling still occurs regularly. Renowned law enforcement leaders like New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden, have all stated that profiling is ineffective. The hearing featured testimony by a range of experts and advocates, who pointed out the flaws in using profiling as a law enforcement technique. These witnesses included: Hilary O. Shelton, Director, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Washington Bureau; Christopher Burbank, Chief of Police, Salt Lake City Police Department; David A. Harris, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh Law School; and Farhana Khera, Executive Director, Muslim Advocates. Members of Congress who made statements or asked questions during the hearing included, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI); Subcommittee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA); Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA); Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA). A Note of Thanks and a Significant Commitment The Sikh Coalition would like to thank House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) for his and his staff's tireless leadership on the issue of racial and religious profiling and for giving the community a voice at the hearing. The Coalition would also like to thank Subcommittee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for holding and chairing the hearing. The Coalition would also like to thank the rest of the Members of Congress who spoke so supportively of the Sikh community at the hearing. Every member who spoke on the issue was supportive of Sikh concerns. In particular, the Coalition would like to thank Rep. Judy Chu (D-Ca) for her extensive comments on the profiling of Sikhs at U.S. airports and her commitment to write to the TSA about the issue. The Coalition also commends fellow Sikh organization United Sikhs for briefing Rep. Chu on Sikh airport profiling issues very well. Help the Cause: Please Report Your Air Travel Experience As always, the Coalition continues to encourage all Sikhs to fearlessly practice their faith and stand up for their rights. Please help us by reporting your air travel experience here! To learn about your rights in Air Travel, please click here.