An Airport Experience Marked by Equality

Folks I took a flight Friday afternoon from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco for this weekend’s Coalition board retreat.

I was very pleased to see that every passenger was required to go through a puffer machine. In other words, there was no question with regard to whether I was being discriminatorily pulled aside for additional airport screening All passengers were receiving the exact same screening.

You may recall that back in November 2007 we successfully fought to have the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) end a policy that effectively allowed screeners to order a Dastaar removed whenever they wanted. Instead, screeners were given the discretion to determine whether a Dastaar is bulky enough to hide forbidden contraband and if so, ask a Sikh to either pat down their own turban; go through a puffer machine if available; or have a TSA screener pat down a Sikh’s Dastaar for them.

One of our key recommendations at the time was to ask the TSA to install puffer machines at all airports and require all passengers to go through them.

Specifically, we wrote:

we recognize that the ideal solution is for the TSA to install ‘puffer’ machines or other detection technology at all airports. This would help avoid the need for additional screening that involves the handling of religious head coverings like the Sikh turban. We will continue to press the TSA to install “puffer” machines and other detection technology in all airports.

This solution would both ensure that there is complete equality in the air travel experience and enhance safety through the use of better detection technology.

I am happy to see that my home airport in at least one terminal (Terminal A – Newark Liberty Airport), requires all passengers to go through a puff machine. It is a much needed step in the right direction both for safety and equality.

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