ACLU urges CBP officials to stop confiscating Sikh asylees’ turbans

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote a letter to the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this week urging officials to stop confiscating the turbans of Sikh asylum-seekers.

“We write to inform you of ongoing, serious religious-freedom violations in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector, where your agents are confiscating turbans from Sikh individuals during asylum processing,” the ACLU wrote to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus on Monday, in a letter obtained by Arizona Luminaria and The Intercept.

“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 (CBP) and never returned or replaced,” it added.

The officials said they wanted a meeting with Magnus to hear how he would handle the issue and pressed Yuma Border Patrol agents to stop confiscating turbans.

“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, which states that ‘CBP employees must treat all individuals with dignity and respect, ” and respect individual rights such as freedom of religion, the ACLU officials wrote.

Magnus said in a statement that there would be an investigation into the matter.

“We take allegations of this nature very seriously,” the commissioner said in a statement. “This issue was raised in June and steps were immediately taken to address the situation. Our expectation is that CBP employees treat all migrants we encounter with respect. An internal investigation has been opened to address this matter.”

The ACLU noted in its letter that it was not the first time it had raised concerns over Sikhs’ turbans being taken away, saying it had raised a similar issue in March 2019 to the CBP and others.

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