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Senators Want Probe of Customs Searches in Chicago


July-August 1998

Illinois Senators Richard Durbin (D) and Carol Moseley-Braun (D) have asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the U.S. Customs Service following complaints that black women are disproportionately targeted for searches at Chicago O'Hare International Airport (Wendy Koch, "Customs accused of unfair searches of women," USA Today, July 15, 1998, p. 3A; Mike Dorning, "Innocent Women Being Strip-Searched by U.S. Customs," Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1998).

Customs Service records show that women were three times more likely to be strip-searched than men in 1997 at the Chicago airport. 104 strip searches at the airport included 77 women. Forty-seven of the 77 women were African-American. Yet, of the 27 searches that yielded drugs, only 15 were of women.

Senators Durbin and Moseley-Braun said that citizens all over the country have called them to complain about what they perceive as racist or sexist profiling tactics by the Customs Service.

The Treasury Department, which supervises the Customs Service, is conducting its own investigation into the agency's search methods. The Treasury Department expects the report to be complete within a few months.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin - SR-364, Washington, DC 20510, Tel: (202) 224-2152, Fax: (202) 228-0400.

Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun - SH-324, Washington, DC 20510, Tel: (202) 224-2854, Fax: (202) 228-1318, E-mail: <>.

U.S. Customs Service - 1301 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229, Tel: (202) 927-1770, Web: <>.