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Jewish and Arab American woman suing airline for racial profiling

JTA

January 23, 2013 | 10:54 am

A Jewish-Arab American woman is suing a U.S. airline and the federal Transportation Security Administration for removing her from an airplane and strip-searching her.

Shoshana Hebshi, whose mother is Jewish and father is Saudi Arabian, is suing Frontier Airlines and law enforcement for ethnically targeting her.

A SWAT team forcibly removed Hebshi, 36, an American citizen who lives in Ohio, and two Indian men in handcuffs from Frontier Airline flight 623 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 lawsuit was filed Jan. 22 in a federal court in Detroit. 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.

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

"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.

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