Somalis Scrutinized at MPLS & St. Paul Airport

Credit: AP Photo/Andy King

Complaints of extra security scrutiny at the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Airport (MSP) have been mounting for years in Minnesota’s Somali community. Center of the complaints has been that men of Somali origin under 30 years old with international itinerary are automatically flagged for additional security screening. Somalis older than 30 years old are subjected to additional scrutiny as well but with less frequency.

The Somali experience at MSP has been exacerbated by an inadequate explanation for the search. Requests for information have led to spine hunt. One agent transfers those with complains to another agent.

MSP airport is secured by several agents. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has the primary security responsibility. TSA uses information gathered by the Federal Bauru of Investigation (FBI). TSA also gets support from local police.

The multilayer airport security structure leads to agonizing experience for traveling Somalis. TSA agents pull traveling Somalis from custom line into small interview rooms asking mundane questions; sometimes interrogating minors about plans made by their parents. Often times, the interview take long time leading to travelers missing their flights and separated from their luggage.

When travelers ask detail explanation for their ordeal, the airline refers them to TSA. TSA refers them to the FBI and the FBI sends them back to the TSA since it takes no inquiry from the public. The pattern is repeated next trip developing to vicious cycle without an end for traveling Somalis.

This painful experience has led to some hypothesis that could explain what has been happening to Somalis at MSP. One hypothesis has been that there is a list with ethnographic information that auto picks Somalis from the traveling public.

This hypothesis sounded crazy years ago when Somalis proposed.But it has been partly proven by a story that appeared on the New York Times this weekend documenting a policy of ethnic profiling from the highest levels of American government. A we told so moment by Somalis traveling throught MPLS and St.Paul airport.