SEIU Teams Up With ACLU to Overturn Federal Baggage-Screen Law

The Am. Civil Liberties Union and the Service Employees Int’l Union filed a suit Jan. 17 challenging the citizenship requirement for airport baggage screeners in the recently enacted Aviation & Transp. Security Act, which requires virtually all airport baggage screeners to be federal employees within one year. Applicants must be United States citizens to qualify for those federal jobs.  In addition to the suit, ACLU and SEIU are calling on Congress to remove the citizenship requirement from the statute. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) has introduced a bill (S. 1829) to allow permanent foreign residents to be eligible for federal screener jobs if they are in the process of becoming U.S. citizens. However, a spokesman for SEIU told BNA that while the union supports Feinstein’s measure, the bill would affect less than 10% of the legal immigrants who hold baggage screening positions.

About 25% of baggage screeners nationwide are legal, noncitizen residents, according to Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of S. Cal.. Those workers will lose their jobs within the year if the law is not changed. At San Francisco International Airport 80% of the baggage screeners are legal noncitizens. SEIU represents some 500 baggage screeners at the airport. The legal basis for the case, according to Rosenbaum, will be the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the government from enacting laws that discriminate against specific groups, including immigrants, “without any rational basis,” Rosenbaum said.  [BNA 1/18/02]