An Ohio woman has filed a lawsuit today against the FBI, Frontier Airlines, and several other government agencies after she was an alleged victim of racial profiling. The lawsuit claims that the woman, of Jewish and Arab descent, was singled out and removed from a flight due to her appearance.
Shoshana Hebshi of Sylvania, Ohio had flown into Detroit on her way home when she was suddenly and unexpectedly approached by federal agents. Hebshi and two other men who were sitting in the same row were then removed from the plane by the agents who were reportedly carrying “large guns.”
As reported by Detroit Free Press, Hebshi and the two other men were put into handcuffs and taken to waiting vehicles. After the three were detained, Hebshi explains that she was ordered to remove her clothing and was subjected to a search. The incident, which occurred on September 11, 2011, affected Hebshi deeply:
“I was frightened and humiliated. As an American citizen and a mom, I’m really concerned about my children growing up in a country where your skin color and your name can put your freedom and liberty at risk at any time. This country has a … history of profiling and oppressing people who look different.”
The lawsuit, which was filed by the ACLU on Hebshi’s behalf, was filed against the FBI, TSA, ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and Frontier Airlines. As reported by USA Today, an attorney for the ACLU has stated that “she did nothing that was suspicious.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Khaalid stated:
“While ICE does not comment on pending litigation, ICE is serious about responding to complaints or allegations of racial profiling and does not tolerate profiling by its personnel.”
All other agencies declined comment. Frontier Airlines declined to comment as well, but it is reported that spokesman Kate O’Malley stated that her employees were following expected protocol after receiving complaints from passengers:
“As an airline, our duty and that of our flight crews is to ensure the safety of our passengers and we have the responsibility to report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement officials.”
Hebshi felt that she needed to sue the FBI, TSA, and other agencies for racial profiling to bring about “accountability and changes so this type of thing does not happen again.”
The names and whereabouts of the two “Indian-American” men who were also detained are unknown.