In 2016, the NAACP LDF, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Muslim Advocates asked the federal agency to begin investigating stories in the news of passengers who had been kicked off planes but hadn’t filed formal complaints. The Department of Transportation declined that request.
That same year, agency investigators found that there had been no violation of the nation’s civil rights and transit laws in 93 of 95 civil rights complaints filed by passengers. The Department of Transportation’s Office of the General Counsel found evidence of one civil rights violation and issued a warning to the airline. One case remains under investigation. Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 16 this year, the agency has found no violation in 31 of 70 complaints. Another 39 civil rights investigations are pending.
“That’s troubling,” said Ajmel Quereshi, a lawyer with the NAACP LDF, about the large proportion of dismissed cases. “We don’t know the basis of each one of the agency’s decisions. But the incidents we reported to the DOT and the additional incidents we cite in our [Oct. 12] letter — where individuals were removed from planes because they were asking to change seats or speaking a language other than English or reading flash cards that are in Arabic — those all seem like discriminatory situations to me.”
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