ADC continues to receive reports from Arab American travelers experiencing difficulty traveling at different ports of entry. Common problems include undue delays and secondary searches. In some instances, passengers are detained and not allowed to travel. Some of these problems encountered by Arab American travelers also came as a direct result of the different governmental “watch lists.”
Based on information provided by a former TSA officer, in 2014 ADC requested the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General (DHS-OIG) to investigate and take action regarding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ‘Selectee Passport List’ Policy. The ‘Selectee Passport List’ provides TSA officers with a list of twhttps://www.adc.org/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=pageelve (12) countries that automatically trigger special screening at airports. TSA officers are required to conduct special screening for passport holding nationals from Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. All of the countries listed are Arab nations, with the exception of Afghanistan and Iran, which are predominantly Muslim nations. ADC is currently working with government agencies to address the existence of a ‘Selectee Passport List’ and prevent such occurrence again. DHS-OIG is currently conducting an investigation.
ADC also submitted an official statement for the record at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on December 9, 2014, entitled The State of Civil and Human Rights in the United States. The hearing examined the status of important civil and human rights issues, including surveillance reform, profiling and law enforcement, criminal justice reform, voting rights, the militarization of law enforcement, and police-community relations. In the statement, ADC expressed widespread concerns that Federal, state, and local law enforcement continue to disproportionately target Arab Americans and other minority communities for investigation, interrogation, and arrest. ADC also called on Congress to pass legislation including the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) (S.1038) and the Smarter Sentencing Act (H.R. 3382/S. 1410).
ADC worked closely with Rep. Honda’s office in drafting the Consumer Protection amendment, which will require airlines to report to the U.S. Department of Transportation the number of passengers removed off planes and the reason for their removal. The amendment will be considered by the House Appropriations Committee. ADC commends the Congressman for his vigorous advocacy for fairness and transparency, and will continue to work closely with Congressman Honda to address this issue.