Federal Court in CA Blocks Government from Denying Airport Screener Jobs to Qualified Noncitizens

November 15, 2002 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – A federal district judge today sided with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and other civil rights groups in granting a court order that would allow qualified, noncitizen airport screeners to remain on the job or be considered for jobs they lost as a result of a federal law that would require all airport screeners to be United States citizens.

“This is a victory for our national security,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “Some of these workers have served in our nation’s armed forces and many have longtime experience as screeners. There is simply no rational reason why qualified, hard-working screeners should be excluded from consideration for these positions based solely on their national origin.”

As part of the Aviation and Security Transportation Act, noncitizens were barred from working as screeners even though no such requirement was put in place for airline pilots, flight attendants, mechanics of members of U.S. military. This provision of the new law, which affected an estimated 8,000 noncitizen screeners — most of whom have already lost their jobs — was due to take effect tomorrow.

In January of 2002, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of nine legal resident, noncitizen screeners employed at Los Angeles and San Francisco International airports. The government later filed a motion to dismiss the case; that motion was denied on November 13. Today, Judge Robert M. Takasugi issued a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the citizenship requirement of the Aviation and Security Transportation Act.

“This has never been about guaranteeing people jobs,” said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “All we’re asking is that these people be given a chance to apply for these posts and have their applications considered on the basis of their qualifications, not their national origin.”

A special web feature on the case is online at http://archive.aclu.org/features/f011702b.html

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