Five Sikh men are among the eight asylum seekers who have been released on bond from a federal prison in the United States, three months after they were detained for entering the country illegally. All the five men from India made their first public appearance on Aug. 22 and shared their experiences in the Oregon prison.
“In the beginning I had no hope,” Karandeep Singh, 24, said during a press conference at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office in Portland, Oregonlive reported. “Now it’s like a dream. I’m so happy. Thanks to all of the people who have helped us,” he added.
“We were seriously depressed,” Lovpreet Singh, 22, said at the press conference. “We couldn’t get out of our cells at all, let alone use the phone to call our families. Even the prison officials didn’t know who we were. How were our families supposed to help us when they don’t know where we are?,” he was quoted as saying.
The immigrants were released on bond payments ranging from $1,500 to $25,000.
After coming out of prison, they still have to convince an immigration judge that they deserve asylum in the United States.
The immigrants were caught during the Trump administration’s crackdown under its controversial “zero-tolerance” policy. But instead of being kept in detention centers, they were shifted to the federal prison in the U.S. state of Oregon by authorities due to shortage in the centers meant for asylum seekers or other immigrants with pending crime convictions.
A total of 52 Indians were among the 124 asylum-seeking illegal immigrants shifted to the Sheridan prison in May. They were detained at the southern border of the country and were among the approximately 1,600 immigrants transferred to federal prisons in five states of the country, AP reported.
After visiting the Sheridan facility, local federal public defender had filed petitions on behalf of the detainees and claimed that the conditions in the prison were unconstitutional.
Detainees at the Sheridan prison were initially even prevented from meeting lawyers, after which rights activists came to their support to ask for the right to due process.
In June, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement was ordered by a district court to allow the 121 migrants from 16 countries, being held at Sheridan, to meet lawyers.
Federal immigration officials determined in August that at least 79 of the detainees at Sheridan had legitimate asylum claims. They also said that these 79 persons have a “credible fear” of violence or reprisals on their return to home country, according to Oregonlive.
After this determination, the immigrants asked a federal immigration judge to release them on bond while their immigration case is pending.
More people are expected to be released this month, as per media reports.