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Border Patrol Accused of Seizing Sikhs' Turbans In Arizona

In Yuma, Az., dozens of Sikh migrants say that Border Patrol agents confiscated their turbans, a violation of their religious freedom, the Washington Post reports. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus saying that it has documented almost 50 cases of confiscated turbans. Magnus said that he is taking the allegations seriously and is conducting a investigation. Many of the migrants are from India’s Punjab region, coming to the United States for religious freedom. There are over 30 million Sikhs worldwide and around 500,000 in the U.S. Turbans have strong religious significance for Sikhs. Sikh teaching says that the turban is “one in the same” with the Sikh’s head. CBP officials recently reminded Border Patrol to exercise care when handling personal religious items.

Migrants who are taken into CBP custody normally have to discard backpacks, food or extra clothing items. They also are instructed to remove shoelaces, which are considered a safety hazard. Items with personal importance are not considered to be contraband. They are usually given back to the person once they are released or deported. The ACLU letter said that agents in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector had repeatedly forced migrants to throw away all personal items. Because of this, most Yuma crossing points have large trash cans for migrants. In June, CBP officials told Homeland Security that turbans were returned to migrants unless they were “wet or damaged.” However, immigrant advocates and the ACLU state otherwise, that several turbans were seized with “no viable explanation.”


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