The Sikh Coalition and our allies at the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU-AZ) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were joined by more than 160 civil rights, immigration, religious, advocacy, and other organizations in submitting a letter to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas regarding the continued mistreatment of Sikhs and other religious migrants at our southern border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
The letter reads in part: “For years, advocates and the media have repeatedly raised concerns about the seizure of religious headwear and other articles of faith, as well as the denial of religious diets by CBP … Time after time, DHS officials have assured the public and stakeholders that they take these concerns seriously, yet the violations continue. Alarmingly, these abuses have gone on for so long that they appear to have become standard operating procedure at the border, supplanting CBP’s own rules.”
As a reminder, in June and July, news began to emerge that CBP officers were confiscating Sikh migrants’ turbans and other possessions and throwing them in the trash. Later reports revealed that some Sikh migrants also have been denied vegetarian meals and were ordered by border officials to eat meat or ‘starve.’ Unfortunately, this misconduct appears to be ongoing: According to our organizational partners on the ground, there have been at least 12 new cases of turban confiscation in August alone.
The Sikh Coalition joined the ACLU-AZ and ACLU to take action by sending a letter to DHS in early August, and we have since continued to press senior DHS leaders to respond in a transparent and comprehensive way. Additionally, we were proud to support a letter sent last week by Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and Judy Chu (D-CA) demanding answers about CBP’s treatment of Sikhs and other religious migrants, and we continue to provide information to members of the media working to spotlight this issue. Per public reporting, an investigation of this issue is currently underway.
“Sikh migrants are among the most vulnerable individuals coming to the United States–in many cases, fleeing a well-founded fear of religious persecution in their home countries,” said Sim J. Singh Attariwala, Sikh Coalition Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager. “To have their religious and other rights immediately violated by CBP officers is a cruel irony, and this misconduct should not be tolerated.”