Over 160 organizations call on DHS to end religious discrimination at the US border – JURIST

More than 160 organizations on Monday sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling for an end to religious discrimination against Sikh migrants at US border crossings. The letter was signed by the Sikh Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU-AZ) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among other organizations.

The organizations wrote the letter after the ACLU received reports that Arizona’s Yuma Sector of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of DHS, allegedly mistreated Sikh migrants at the border. American. On August 1, the ACLU-AZ sent a letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus documenting instances of CBP officers confiscating and disposing of turbans from Sikh migrants in violation of the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) . The letter sent Monday cited the RFRA violation as well as instances of CBP officers denying Sikh migrants vegetarian meals, which are part of Sikh religious customs.

While the letter specifically refers to instances of religious discrimination against Sikhs, it also outlines how Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian migrants could be impacted by CBP’s practices. The letter also describes how “CBP officials frequently force migrants, including those seeking asylum, to discard nearly all of their personal belongings, including important medications, identity documents, records relevant to refugee claims, asylum of individuals and objects of sentimental value”.

According to the letter, several organizations have repeatedly notified DHS officials of the discriminatory behavior and have been repeatedly assured that DHS takes the concerns seriously. And yet the behavior continues in what the organizations describe as “standard operating procedure at the border.”

The letter outlines the organizations’ desire to have an unambiguous policy statement prohibiting discriminatory misconduct and detailing strict enforcement against violation of such policy. The letter also calls on DHS leadership to review the agency’s treatment of religious freedoms and other migrant rights.

The letter reads in part: “While we welcome a thorough investigation of these practices at all border points of entry, we urge you to take immediate action to correct these harms and protect civil rights and the civil liberties of migrants”.

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