ADC Statement Regarding Illegal Airline Discrimination Lawsuits
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the nation’s largest Arab-American membership organization, is a plaintiff in three lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union filed today. ADC is a co-plaintiff in the cases of Assem Bayaa, Edgardo Cureg and Hassan Sader.
ADC is involved in these cases because it is a civil rights organization committed to defending the civil liberties of all Americans. In the past few months, a new and disturbing pattern of discrimination at American airports has emerged, involving the removal of passengers during or after the boarding process simply because of their ethnicity. The cases of illegal airline discrimination in which ADC is involved as a plaintiff are those in which the facts most closely correspond to the kind of discrimination ADC’s members and the Arab-American community have been facing for the past seven months. ADC has received over 60 reports involving more than 100 Arab Americans, or those perceived to be Arab Americans, being expelled from aircraft during or after the boarding process because of their perceived ethnicity. This illegal airline discrimination is a new phenomenon, virtually unknown before the September 11th attacks.
We do not enter into this litigation lightly, and do so only after extensive consultations. Since October, ADC has been urging the airlines to create guidelines which would clarify the rights of passengers and the authority of pilots. As the Department of Transportation has repeatedly pointed out, removing passengers from aircraft simply because of their ethnicity is “not only immoral but illegal.” Instances of this kind of discrimination have continued, in spite of this admonition, and airlines have not disciplined their employees in these cases or developed guidelines that would prevent this kind of discrimination from continuing. ADC has repeatedly asked the Department of Transportation to set up a mechanism whereby the DOT, the airlines, the pilots’ union and Arab-American organizations could work together to establish guidelines and safeguards that would help pilots and crews avoid acting in a discriminatory manner and which would provide all passengers with security as well a recourse in such situations. ADC views these lawsuits as a vital part of the effort to combat this form of discrimination.
Illegal airline discrimination is only a part of the serious problems with which the Arab-American community has been grappling in recent months. However, illegal airline discrimination must be of concern to all Americans, as it is reminiscent of the discrimination in public buses which led to the Montgomery bus boycott and initiated the civil rights movement. The right to use transportation without discrimination is a central tenet of American civil rights law. The pattern of illegal airline discrimination which we are talking about today is one of the most serious challenges to those rights in many years. We are grateful to the ACLU for representing ADC and the individuals involved in each of the lawsuits.