The Indian mission in the US has established contact with two immigration detention centres where nearly 100 Indians, mostly from Punjab, are detained for illegally entering the country through its southern border. According to the officials, around 40-45 Indians are at a federal detention centre in the Southern American State of New Mexico while 52 Indians, mostly Sikhs and Christians, are held in Oregon.
The Indian Embassy in a statement said it has established contacts with both the detention facilities. “A consular official has visited the detention facility in Oregon and another one is scheduled to visit the detention facility in New Mexico. We are monitoring the situation,” the statement said.
More than a dozen of them are being held at the New Mexico centre for months. And the rest of the Indians were brought to this detention centre about a week ago. Most of the detainees at the federal facilities are asking for asylum claiming that they “experienced violence or persecution” in their home country.
Satnam Singh Chahal, of the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA), believes that thousands of Indians, with an overwhelming majority of them being from Punjab, are languishing in jails in the US.
According to the information obtained by NAPA through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) between three years of 2013, 2014 and 2015, more than 27,000 Indians were apprehended at the US border. Of these, over 4,000 were women and 350 were children. Many of them, it is reported, are still languishing in jails.
According to an FOIA request in 2015, more than 900 Indians were in various federal prisons on charges of illegally staying in the country. Chahal alleged that there is a nexus of human traffickers, officials and politicians in Punjab, who encourage young Punjabis to leave their homes to illegally enter the US and charge Rs 35-50 lakhs from each individual.
“Human trafficking is a criminal act which affects the global community and consequently Punjabis are too victims of this episode. The Punjabis enthusiasm to migrate to affluent countries in search of greener pastures has given the traffickers to exploit them,” he said.
“Using different modus operandi, people of different backgrounds involved in human trafficking and often put the lives of their clients in considerable danger. Failure to reach their promised destination leads to deportation, exploitation, indebtedness, imprisonment and even death,” he rued.
He urged the Punjab government to strictly enforce human trafficking laws that have been passed by the State Assembly in recent years.
According to immigration attorney Akansha Kalra, the largest number of Indians who enter the US illegally are from Punjab and Gujarat. Sharing her experience from her practice at an event organised by the Hindu American Foundation early this week, Kalra said that young Indians in their 20s are crossing the border. “They pay around Rs 35-40 lakhs to human smugglers just to help them cross the border. With this kind of administration’s policy, hopefully, they would get deterred by it. But so far they keep on coming,” she said during fourth annual HAF Policy Conference at the US Capitol.
“They (Punjabi boys) use the same script that was used in the 80s,” she said, narrating the experience of her visits to one of these detention centres in Pennsylvania, which has several of illegal Indians being detained.
Most of these Indians get nabbed at the Mexico border, get processed in Texas and then shipped out to the Pennsylvania detention centre, which is one of the largest of such detention facilities in the US.
President Donald Trump on Thursday reversed his controversial decision on immigration by signing an executive order to end the separation of immigrant families on the US-Mexico border, following widespread protests against the move of his administration to separate children from their parents who illegally enter the country.