“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,” officials said.
In a recent case, one Bunty Singh (name changed) hailing from a middle-class family of Jalandhar landed in an immigration detention centre in New Mexico where he has been languishing for the last 16 months.
Lured to US by a local travel agent, Singh who left his hometown two years ago, was nabbed before he tried to sneak into the United States through the Mexico border near El Paso in Texas.
Having spent the last 16 months at the federal detention centre in Otero, New Mexico, Singh is now in the process of being deported back home.
Singh’s argument that he wants “political asylum” in the US “because minority Sikhs are being persecuted by majority Hindus” has failed to convince the American judges. Notably, “religious persecution” is the most common argument by Indians illegally crossing into the US and seeking political asylum here.
Satnam Singh Chahal of the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA), believes that thousands of Indians are languishing in jails in the US.
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 lakh 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.
Immigration Attorney Akansha Kalra opined that the largest number of Indians entering the US illegally are from Punjab and Gujarat.
Sharing her experience at an event organised by the Hindu American Foundation early this week, Kalra said young Indians in the 20’s are crossing the border.
Most of these Indians are held 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.
“I say to them why do you want me to file for your asylum? You do not have an asylum case. The scripts that the smuggler gave you of (religious prosecution) is not going to work anymore,” Kalra said.
(With PTI inputs)