Indian Immigrants Detained in U.S. Being Treated Like Criminals, Says Activist

The jailed Indian immigrants were handcuffed when they were arrested, and kept chained for 24 hours, an activist working for a non-profit legal firm was reported as saying.


The Indian immigrants being held in jail at Oregon in the United States, over accusations of trying to enter the country illegally, are facing harsh conditions, PTI reported. At least 52 individuals from India, mostly Sikhs from Punjab, were housed at Oregon’s Sheridan federal prison in Yamhill County after they were caught entering the United States to seek asylum.

“Right now, they are [in] a miserable [condition],” the news agency reported, quoting Navneet, a Punjabi translator working for the non-profit legal firm Innovation Law lab that provides legal assistance to jailed illegal immigrants.

The inmates have been treated as criminals, the report said, adding that they were handcuffed when they were arrested, and kept chained for 24 hours. They even ate food while being in handcuffs. The turbans of the Sikh inmates have been removed, and they were kept in tiny cells for 22 hours a day with people who did not speak their language.  

“In a country where everyone has a right to practice their own religion these men there don’t have turbans to cover (their head). Not even a piece of cloth to cover their heads,” Navneet said, according to the report.

Members of the local community are helping the imprisoned Sikhs by giving them caps to cover their heads, the report said, adding that the condition has now improved, and they have been given permission to make domestic and international calls. Some of the Indian asylum seekers have also hired their own attorney.

The Indians were among the foreigners arrested in the United States after the Donald Trump administration launched its “zero tolerance” policy against illegal immigration in May.  

Besides the 52 Indians detained at Oregon, 42 others are held at the Otero County Detention Center in New Mexico.

About 25 travel agents were booked last month by the Punjab Police in Kapurthala during investigations into illegal entry of several youth from the state into the United States. The action against the travel agents was taken after the families of many of these young men from Punjab lodged complaints.

The North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) had also written a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, urging the government to take action against agents who lure the Punjabi youth with promises of well-paying jobs and settlement in the United States.

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