The Daily Beast: "How the US Sold Out Indian Asylum Seekers On the Border"

by Joseph McKeown

While much of the recent news from the US/Mexico border concerns the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America--which we've discussed here and here--The Daily Beast also looks into the story of approximately seventy Sikhs from India who applied for political asylum at the border last fall. Despite passing the "credible fear" interview, which should allow them to be released to a relative while waiting for their hearing, many were detained indefinitely in the El Paso, Texas facility. Frustrated with their treatment, they organized a hunger strike (incidentally, not the only hunger strike at immigration detention centers). The Daily Beast reports:

During the first few days of the hunger strike, according to a lawyer representing some of the men, ICE agents threatened to force-feed the detainees. When that tactic failed to break the strike, the Sikhs received a visitor: a representative from the Indian consulate in Houston. According to statements from the detainees and an attorney representing some of them, N.P.S. Saini was called to convince the men to end their hunger strike, give up their asylum claims, and go home. If true, this would be a violation of American laws on amnesty, which explicitly prohibit the disclosure of any information that links an asylum seeker’s identity to the fact that they’ve applied for asylum.

John Lawit, an immigration lawyer representing six of the men, notes in the Texas Observer that El Paso is the toughest venue for asylum cases in the country (with an eighty-seven percent denial rate for asylum; the national average is fifty percent). “'I’ve been practicing there for 35 years, and it’s always been that way,' he says."