Jewish-Arab American woman suing airline, feds for racial profiling

(JTA) – A Jewish- and Arab-American woman, saying she was ethnically target, is suing Frontier Airlines and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for removing her from an airplane and strip searching her.

Shoshana Hebshi, whose mother is Jewish and father is Saudi Arabian, filed the lawsuit Jan. 22 in a federal court in Detroit.

Hebshi, 36, said in a statement that she was" frightened and humiliated," and that she believes she was singled out due to her ethnicity.

A SWAT team forcibly removed Hebshi, an American citizen who lives in Ohio, and two Indian men in handcuffs from a Frontier flight after it landed on Sept. 11, 2011 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. She was held for hours, questioned and strip searched.

A fellow passenger had accused the three of acting suspiciously. Hebshi did not know the Indian men, who reportedly were sitting in her row.

"The illegal arrest and strip search of Ms. Hebshi is not simply a mistake made by an airline employee or government agency, but a predictable consequence of institutionalizing racial stereotypes and mass suspicion as law enforcement tactics," Sarah Mehta, an attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement issued Jan. 22. "Racial profiling is unconstitutional and counterproductive. No one is safer because an innocent mother of two was dragged off a flight, strip searched and held for several hours."

The TSA would not comment to media on pending litigation. 

Also named in the lawsuit are the Wayne County Airport Authority, Detroit Metro Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Patrol.

 

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