Washington: 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 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.
Indian government sources said, “Our embassy in Washington has established contacts with both the detention facilities (in the US). 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.”
More than a dozen of Indian detainees 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.
Notably, “religious persecution” is the most common argument by Indians illegally crossing into the US and seeking political asylum.
According to immigration attorney Akansha Kalra, the largest number of Indians who enter the US illegally are from Punjab and Gujarat.
Sharing her experience at an event organised by the Hindu American Foundation early this week, Ms Kalra said young Indians in their 20s are crossing the border.
With the Trump administration’s strict immigration policy, she said, “hopefully they would get deterred”.
“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.
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.
Satnam Singh Chahal of the North American Punjabi Association (Napa) said that information obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicated that between 2013 and 2015, more than 27,000 Indians were apprehended on 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 a FOIA request in 2015, more than 900 Indians were in various federal prisons on charges of illegally staying in the country.
Mr 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.
“Using different modus operandi, people involved in human trafficking 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 said. He urged the Punjab government to strictly enforce human trafficking laws passed by the state Assembly.
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.