Twin Cities Somali-American and Muslim leaders condemned racial profiling Monday after allegations by a Minneapolis Transportation Security Administration official that he had been told to target the community.
Leaders praised Andrew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director for the TSA in Minnesota, for coming forward last week to describe how he was ordered to provide names of Somali-Americans visiting his TSA office so they could be screened for terrorist ties.
"We are proud of his courage and his faithfulness, and we hope that he is a model for law enforcement officials," Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, said at a news conference at the Abubakar Islamic Center in Minneapolis. "We cannot allow our own government to engage and fuel Islamophobia by treating and targeting Somali-Americans as a community of suspect."
Leaders addressed the media while community members stood behind them in solidarity.
Hussein requested an independent investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general to run parallel with the investigation by the department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties into the allegations.
Hussein also thanked elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison for his swift response in sending out a letter demanding an investigation by Homeland Security.
In a statement, TSA said it doesn't tolerate racial profiling.
"TSA takes allegations of racial profiling seriously. We are reviewing this complaint and will take appropriate action if there is evidence that any TSA officer acted inappropriately."
TSA officials had been working the past year to mend trust with Somali-Americans, even creating a mobile team to connect with the community. But leaders stressed that trust has been broken. Leaders said TSA officials had reached out to the community and encouraged Muslims and Somali-Americans to visit their local office for assistance.
"We must show we will not tolerate anti-Muslim discrimination," said Sadik Warfa, a Somali-American community leader.
Muslims in the community shared their own experiences with racial profiling.
Imam Hassan Mohamud shared a story from a member of his mosque who said he had experienced racial profiling when he was stopped by security at the airport. Mohamud said he has heard of several such cases from members of his mosque.
At the meeting, Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame said he would talk with city officials to find ways to protect Somali-Americans from profiling. A local Black Lives Matter organizer and a leader with a coalition of Minnesotans against Islamophobia also spoke out in support of the local community.
In a phone interview Monday, Somali activist Omar Jamal called for Cliff Van Leuven, TSA federal security director of Minnesota, to step down.
"This has created a huge mistrust in the hearts and the minds of the community," he said. " It's a big setback. It's the talk of every coffee shop."