While the United States and the Donald Trump administration have been facing massive backlash for the zero-tolerance crackdown on illegal immigration, it looks like a sizeable number of Indians too are feeling the heat now. About 2,400 Indians have reportedly been detained in US jails after they were intercepted while trying to cross over into the country illegally.
Most of the detainees are said to be from Punjab and are facing violence or persecution in India, due to which they are seeking asylum in the US.
"Most of the detainees at the federal facilities are asking for asylum claiming that they 'experienced violence or persecution' in their home country," North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) president Satnam S Chahal told the Press Trust of India.
"This is a matter of serious concern that thousands of Indians, with an overwhelming majority of them being from Punjab, are languishing in jails in the US."
As of now, about 2,383 Indians have been detained in 86 jails centres in the US, according to information obtained by NAPA through Freedom of Information Act. As of October 10, 377 Indians are at California's Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center, 269 at Imperial Regional Adult Detention Facility, 245 at the Federal Correctional Institution Victorville, and 115 at Washington State's Tacoma ICE Processing Center, as per the data.
Speaking of how the Punjabis could have ended up in the US, Chahal added that they are often victims of human trafficking, which is rampant in the state. He explained that there is a nexus of human traffickers and officials in Punjab, and they are the ones that encourage young Punjabis to leave their homes and illegally enter the US. To bring them to the US, the traffickers charge Rs.35-50 lakhs from each individual, he said.
"The Punjabi enthusiasm to migrate to affluent countries in search of greener pastures has given the traffickers to exploit them," Chahal added. "Failure to reach their promised destination leads to deportation, exploitation, indebtedness, imprisonment and even death."
Meanwhile, this is not the first time reports have said that Indian immigrants remain detained in US jails. In June, it was said that about 52 Indians were detained at a federal prison in the state of Oregon. Most of the Indians detained were said to be Sikhs and Christians, fleeing religious persecution in India.
Held in deplorable conditions
Speaking about the detention and their plight, the men told the Oregonian that they had been separated from their families weeks ago and had not been able to meet anyone since. The only contact they have had with the outside world were their Hindi and Punjabi translators, the access to which was also limited.
After the detention came to light, four Democrat members of Oregon's congressional delegation visited the detention centre and spoke to the immigrants. The detainees told them that they were being housed in extremely tough conditions and one cell was shared among three people.
They also said that they were locked for about 22-23 hours a day and haven't even been able to get legal aid. The immigrants spoke of isolation and told the lawmakers that they have no clue where their wives and children are and also worry that they may never see them again.
The Trump-administration's policy has been seen as a major human rights crisis.