A Jewish-Arab American woman is suing a United States airline and the Transportation Security Administration for discrimination and racial profiling after authorities strip searched and removed her from an airplane.
Ohio resident Shoshana Hebshi, 36, said she was returning from a visit with her sister in California on Sept. 11, 2011, when armed men boarded her plane and arrested her.
Hebshi was escorted off of Frontier Airline flight 623 after it landed on Sept. 11, 2011 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. She was held for hours, questioned and strip searched, according to CBS News.
“Several men with very large guns and uniforms, very militaristic looking, they ran on the plane,” she said. “They told everybody to … put their heads down, put their hands on the seat in front of them,” said Hebshi, a freelance journalist and mother of two, who was born to a Jewish mother and Arab father.
“I was thinking the whole time that maybe there’s a fugitive on the plane. Maybe, you know, there’s been a bomb scare; something’s going on that’s not right. But it never once crosses my mind that, you know, they’re coming for me,” she said.
Hebshi said she was handcuffed and taken to a cell where she was strip-searched, questioned for four hours, and then released without explanation.
Documents later showed a Frontier employee thought Hebshi’s name “sounded suspicious,” and included her when notifying authorities of two other passengers “of South Asian descent” on the flight.
"The illegal arrest and strip search of Ms. Hebshi is not simply a mistake made by an airline employee or government agency, but a predictable consequence of institutionalizing racial stereotypes and mass suspicion as law enforcement tactics," Sarah Mehta, an attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement.
Representatives from Frontier Airlines have maintained their employees did nothing wrong and that “there was no profiling of any kind associated with this incident other than that of unusual and suspicious behavior,” CBS News reported.