Another TSA Miscalculation?

February 3, 2012

The Sikh Coalition has obtained previously unreleased TSA documents.  Written in 2009, these documents show that the agency can pursue several auditing options to weed out racial and religious profiling.  In addition, the authors of the document apparently miscalculated the effectiveness of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, recommending that TSA determine which auditing option to implement “during the interim period of time it takes to deploy advance[d] passenger screening technologies” and claiming “that advance[d] screening technologies, beyond those deployed [in 2009] will reduce or possibly eliminate perceptive profiling[.]”  As it turns out, Sikhs are still subjected to secondary pat down screenings, even after passing through AIT machines without incident, and other communities continue to report discriminatory treatment by TSA  personnel.  In this context, TSA needs to take its auditing options more seriously.

Internal TSA Documents Exposed by Sikh Coalition

 

 

 


Telling Congress to End School Bullying

August 23, 2011

An essay by Manpreet Kaur, Sikh Coalition Volunteer Advocate

Securing a meeting with a congressional office to talk about the Safe Schools Improvement Act is something an average citizen might see as a difficult task.  I definitely thought so, until I actually did it.  One day after requesting a meeting, I received appointments for July 11, 2011 from the offices of Congressman Peter Roskam (IL) and Senator Claire McCaskill (MO).  I was set to go to Washington DC and walk the halls of Congress!  Many questions filled my mind: How should I present the bill?  Can I do this by myself?  And most importantly — why does this elected official’s office care to meet me?

After talking to Rajdeep Singh and Amardeep Singh from the Sikh Coalition, my questions started getting answered.  I solidified my talking points for the legislation that I would be bringing forward to both offices.  Rajdeep helped me join hands with two other organizations that support the bill: GLSEN and the Interfaith Alliance.  Amardeep instilled in me the focus of how I, as a constituent, have the duty and power to present the problems of the elected official’s constituency and provide corrective measures.  With the focus of the bill correctly in my head, two powerful organizations confirming attendance to join me, and me knowing why I should be presenting this bill, I was ready to conquer these meetings.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a proposed federal anti-bullying law.  If enacted, it will require schools and school districts to collect and publicize data about incidents of bullying and harassment.  This will create incentives for school officials to protect students and allow government agencies to quickly identify schools and school districts where problems exist.

As I arrived at Congressman Roskam’s office, I kept on thinking how important this meeting was and how much I wanted the Congressman to support this bill.  My talking points were repeating in my head of how much bullying has increased and why the data-gathering requirement laid out in the bill is necessary.  That itself withered away my nervousness as I felt the need to speak about this problem to my Congressman’s office.  Accompanying me to the meeting were Rebecca Weidler, the public policy intern from GLSEN; Arielle Gingold, the deputy director of public policy at the Interfaith Alliance; and Rajdeep Singh.  After I outlined the problems of bullying in Illinois and the bill proposal to  Congressman Roskam’s legislative assistant, Rebecca  provided statistics, and Rajdeep and Arielle explained the  data collection requirements that schools would need to implement under the law.  Within 20 minutes, the meeting was done, and the  legislative assistant explained that he would present the bill to Congressman Roskam for consideration.

Later in the  afternoon, I met  with Senator Claire McCaskill’s office.  Having had  practice with the earlier meeting, I felt less nervous and more energized to say what I wanted to say.  Arielle accompanied me to this meeting along with another policy intern from GLSEN, Noel.  The meeting went as smoothly as the one in the morning.  I started by outlining the need for the bill; Noel summarized the disheartening statistics of bullying in Missouri; and Arielle wrapped up by discussing the specifications of the bill.

My Capitol Hill experience was beyond what I expected.  I never thought being able to walk up to my Congressional offices and talking to Congressional staff  about an important issue would be this easy.  Building a strong alliance for the meeting was extremely necessary, as it helped convey the bill through different viewpoints for the same cause.  As nervous as I was, it was equally rewarding to know I utilized my resources and did my duty as a constituent to engage with my elected officials.

It remains to be seen whether Congressman Roskam and Senator McCaskill will co-sponsor the Safe Schools Improvement Act.  They need to hear from more constituents.  In the meantime, you can ask your elected representatives to support this important legislation by clicking here to sign a petition telling Congress to end school bullying.


See a Sikh, Call the Cops?

August 4, 2011

Imagine that you are an amateur photographer, taking pictures of landmarks in your city.  You are wearing a turban in accordance with your Sikh beliefs and minding your own business.  A passerby notices you from a distance, calls the police, and tells them that a man of Middle Eastern appearance is taking pictures of the area.  Suddenly, you are surrounded by three police officers, who begin to interrogate you.  After several minutes, it becomes clear that you’ve done nothing wrong, but the experience is unsettling nonetheless, because you’ve just been racially profiled.

Should you be able to do anything about it?

Not according to most members of the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.  On July 20, 2011, a majority of the Committee approved a proposed federal law titled H.R. 963, The See Something, Say Something Act of 2011.  Although the legislation is designed to encourage individuals to communicate freely with law enforcement officials without worrying about frivolous lawsuits—and although this is uncontroversial—there is nothing in the legislation to discourage private individuals and police officers from engaging in racial profiling.

This important point was made during the Committee’s July 20 meeting by California Congresswoman Judy Chu, who offered an amendment that would have addressed profiling concerns, and who condemned racial and religious profiling against Sikhs and other minorities.

Click here to watch her remarks on YouTube

Click here to read about the profiling incident she described

Click here to read a transcript of the full debate, starting at page 157

To be sure, H.R. 963 still needs to be taken up by the entire Congress before it can ever become law, and the Sikh Coalition will work with Senate offices to promote corrective amendments, but the warm embrace the bill received in the House Judiciary Committee underscores the ease with which legislators can discard our most basic civil rights.


Amardeep Singh to serve on the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

September 17, 2010

It is with much excitement and pride that we celebrate the appointment of Amardeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s Director of Programs, to serve on the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders!

The White House Initiative was launched earlier this year in the Department of Education, and it will serve as a way to connect government agencies with the AAPI community’s needs.  The director of the Initiative is Kiran Ahuja, who comes from the non-profit sector herself.  The Initiative is guided by a 20-person voluntary, presidentially-appointed Commission made up of community leaders from the business, non-profit, and professional sectors.  There will be a reception, including a swearing-in ceremony, this upcoming Tuesday September 21st.

You can read more about the Initiative here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/16/president-obama-announces-more-key-administration-posts

To our knowledge this is the first appointment of a Sikh to a commission of this sort (President Clinton had an AAPI Commission as well).

Needless-to-say this is a huge milestone for the Sikh American community and an exceptionally notable professional accomplishment for Amar.  I know that I speak on behalf of the entire Sikh Coalition family and greater Sikh community when I say that we are unbelievably appreciative and proud of the work Amar has done on behalf of the Sikh American community for nearly a decade now.  History will no doubt note his many significant contributions in the fight for Sikh and non-Sikh civil rights.  And those of us who have privilege of working with Amar closely these years know that he has approached this important work with a combination of passion, tenacity and humor that is uniquely Amar.

The Commission will no doubt benefit from Amar’s expertise and insight to the betterment of the entire AAPI community.

CONGRATULATIONS AMAR!

Sapreet Kaur

Executive Director, Sikh Coalition


Coalition Receives Award from North American South Asian Bar Association

July 1, 2010

The Sikh Coalition received the 2010 Public Service Achievement Award from the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) during its annual convention in Boston, from June 25 to June 27. The award is meant to recognize public interest organizations that excel in serving the South Asian community in North America.

Sa’adiyah Masoud, Vice-President of the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston presented the award to us on behalf of NASABA.  Her remarks cited the Coalition’s work to: obtain a historic accommodations for two Sikh Army doctors; repeal a Oregon law that prevented Sikhs from serving as public schools teachers; and combat discrimination in the workplace as some of the reasons for the award.

This is the second year in a row NASABA has been good enough to honor the Coalition. Last year I was honored to receive NASABA’s Public Interest Achievement Award for my work with the Coalition.

The Coalition thanks NASABA for its leadership and partnership. We truly value its leadership of the South Asian bar in North America.


First Sikh Army Grad in Over Two Decades, Photos

March 30, 2010

Check out photos from Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan’s graduation at Ft. Houston in San Antonio. Click here.

Though the Army’s policy of not allowing Sikhs to serve with their articles of faith intact remains in place, Sikhs can celebrate that Captain Rattan’s accommodation and successful completion of basic training proves Sikhs do not have to sacrifice their religion to serve effectively in the U.S. Army.


All Out for Immigration Reform – March for America

March 10, 2010

On March 21st, hundreds of thousands will gather in Washington, DC for the March for America, demanding “immigration reform for new American families and economic justice for all American families.”  You can see earlier posts on the importance of immigration reform for the Sikh community here and here.  In the spirit of Sikh activism and sarbat da bhala, we encourage community members to join the march in Washington on the 21st.

The March for America’s website states:

Today we are at a pivotal moment in the history of this nation. We are faced with a choice. We can do nothing, and watch as our families and communities continue to be torn apart by the broken immigration system; watch as profiteers continue to take advantage of people desperate for work; watch as due process is taken away from our understanding of justice; and watch as our leaders work on economic solutions that simply aren’t bold enough to turn this country around. Or we can stand up for our families and our communities. Join thousands from across the country at the March For America in Washington DC on March 21st. It is up to us.

Please click here for more information about the march, including transportation.  Buses will be making one-day trips from New York City and other East Coast cities.  Contact sonny@sikhcoalition.org if you want to get on a bus in New York.

See you in DC!


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