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ACLU accuses Border Patrol of confiscating turbans from migrant Sikhs

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection is investigating a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union that agents in Arizona confiscated turbans from Sikh migrants, a violation of their religious freedom.

In a Monday letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, the ACLU cited dozens of incidents in which turbans, worn by males practicing the Sikh faith, were taken by border agents in Yuma.

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"In the last two months alone, our organizational partners in Arizona have documented nearly 50 cases of asylees arriving from Yuma who reported that their religious headwear had been taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and never returned or replaced," said the letter, signed by Heather Weaver and Daniel Mach of the ACLU.

"These practices blatantly violate federal law. They are also inconsistent with CBP's own national standards and contrary to the agency's non-discrimination policy."

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Magnus told The Washington Post in a statement that the agency was opening an internal investigation into the complaint.

"Our expectation is that CBP employees treat all migrants we encounter with respect," he said.

The Yuma sector has seen immigrants from all over the world enter the country in record numbers, including 10,000 Indian nationals during fiscal year 2022, up by more than 1,000 from last year.

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"After an initial inspection, there is simply no excuse for refusing Sikhs the right to wear their turbans, " the ACLU said. "Institutions with comparable (or even greater) security concerns explicitly authorize religious headwear, including turbans."

CBP agents typically require migrants to discard personal items such as backpacks, food or extra clothing when they arrive at the border. Items of value or importance for migrants, however, that are not deemed contraband are supposed to be safeguarded and returned when they are released or deported, according to agency rules.

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