LOS ANGELES ? The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC), together with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and screeners from the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), announced today that they are filing a lawsuit today challenging the new citizenship requirement for airport screeners enacted as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act last November. Under the new law, thousands of trained, experienced workers will be terminated no later than November 19, 2002.
"Taking qualified, experienced screeners off the job because of their citizenship status won't make anyone safer," said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the ACLU/SC. "By eliminating thousands of skilled, qualified, and experienced screeners solely on the basis of their citizenship status, and replacing those workers with people who have no on-the-job training or experience, we are opening the door to unnecessary security risks at our airports."
At SFO, where non-citizens comprise 80% of the screener workforce, screeners themselves advocated for higher security standards, improved background checks, and more rigorous employment qualifications for screeners, resulting in one of the nation's best records of airport security.
The citizenship requirement would bar legal immigrants from working as airport screeners even though no such requirement exists for members of the U.S. military, airline pilots, baggage handlers, flight attendants, cargo loaders, mechanics, guards, and plane cleaners.
"I was very upset when I heard that non-U.S. citizens would be fired from the job," said Jeimy Gebin, named plaintiff in the suit and a legal U.S. resident who took a job as a screener at LAX after serving in the U.S. Army for three years. "It doesn't make sense that I can serve my country in the Army but not work in an airport as a screener. If I get fired because of this new law, I could enroll in the National Guard and be back in the airport two weeks later, standing behind the screeners holding a rifle. I believe this law won't make anyone safer, but it will hurt a lot of good, hard-working people."
"Americans want security, not scapegoating," said Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of SEIU, the nation's largest union of immigrant workers. "Experienced, qualified, taxpaying immigrant screeners are part of the solution, not part of the problem. They should be allowed to remain on the job."