NEW YORK – The Trump Administration’s asylum ban came into effect this week, on Tuesday, and immediately barred thousands of illegal immigrants from all over the world, including a large number of Indian nationals, from entering the United States.
For the administration, despite a looming legal fight on the issue with at least two lawsuits already filed against it, the move was seemingly a necessary course of action to stem the growing number of illegal immigrants who have been crossing the southern border especially, with impunity.
Under the rules, migrants who pass through another country on their way to the US will be ineligible for asylum, reported the Associated Press. Most of the immigrants arriving at the border this year pass through Mexico – including Central Americans, Africans, Cubans and Haitians. That makes it all but impossible for them to get asylum. The rule also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.
Asylum seekers must also pass an initial screening called a “credible fear” interview, a hurdle that a vast majority clear, AP noted. Under the new policy, they would fail the test unless they sought asylum in at least one country they traveled through and were denied. They would be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at US expense.
Columnist Jaya Padmanabhan, writing in the San Francisco Examiner, noted the growing number of Indian immigrants who try to settle in the US via the asylum route. The death of Gurupreet Kaur, a 6-year-old migrant child from India who died of heat stroke in a remote Arizona desert in June, put the spotlight on Indian nationals.
In the 2019 fiscal year, there have been over 7,000 Indians in deportation proceedings in courts nationally, making India among the top 10 nations with its citizens undergoing asylum hearings in the US, behind Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba and Venezuela, she noted.
The Migration Policy Institute estimated that between 2010 and 2014, there were 267,000 undocumented Asian Indian immigrants in the country. Pew Research put that number closer to 500,000. On the southwest border, there were 77 Indian nationals seeking asylum in 2008 and that number jumped to 3,000 in 2017, which tripled to 8,997 in 2018, according to the U.S. Border Control.
A report in Voice of America said almost 3,000 citizens of India were apprehended entering the US from Mexico in 2017. A decade earlier, in 2007, the number was a paltry 76. The number of Nepalese rose from just four in 2007 to 647 in 2017.
Padmanabhan noted that the Los Angeles Times reported recently that at Victorville detention facility in San Bernardino County, approximately 40 percent of the detainees are of Indian nationality. A majority of Indian detainees are from the Sikh community in Punjab.
Padmanabhan reported that the California Council for Social Studies noted that between 1903 and 1908, 2,000 Punjabis were employed by Western Pacific Railways laying down a 700-mile stretch of roadway starting at Oakland and snaking eastward to Utah. When the railway and lumber jobs dried up, they reverted to their first love: farming.
According to a legacy blog, in Yuba Sutter county, Punjabi farmers account for 95 percent of peach farming, 60 percent of prune farming, and 20 percent of almond and walnut cultivation. More recently, Punjabis have been steering the trucking industry, with 40 percent managing trucking companies and 150,000 Punjabis driving long-haul and other trucks, the Examiner column by Padmanabhan noted.
Now, with the asylum route blocked, there is likely to be a spurt in illegal border crossings, fraught with danger, by Indian nationals.
Reuters reported last month after the death of the child from India, her parents released a statement saying they were “desperate” for a new life in America.
“We wanted a safer and better life for our daughter and we made the extremely difficult decision to seek asylum here in the United States,” it said, adding, “We trust that every parent, regardless of origin, color or creed, will understand that no mother or father ever puts their child in harm’s way unless they are desperate.”
Gurupreet’s father has been in the United States since 2013 with a pending asylum application before the New York immigration court. The child’s parents, both Sikhs, had not seen each other since 2013, approximately six months after Gurupreet was born, according to the statement.
Indian asylum seekers range from Sikhs claiming political persecution to lower caste “untouchables” facing death threats for marrying outside their class, according to immigration lawyers, reported Reuters.
The Indian government will support the Trump Administration’s asylum ban though, as it’s likely to hamper, if not stop the flow of secessionist activities, and flow of anti-nationals to the US. It’s not just radical Muslim fundamentalists that the Indian government is targeting through its National Investigation Agency, but Sikh separatist groups and individuals too, who foment terrorism in India.
The Hindustan Times reported that the Indian government last week banned the Sikhs for Justice, a US-based secessionist group that supports the cause of Khalistan.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)