Indian asylum seekers detained in other US federal prisons too
Lawyers representing the Indian detainees said that they suspect the move to shift them from ICE detention centres to federal prisons had more than what meets the eye.Updated: Jul 19, 2018 10:12 IST
It’s not only the federal detention facility at Sheridan in Oregon where asylum seekers from India, mostly Sikhs from Punjab, have been detained by the United States authorities. A large number of Indian asylum seekers and those who crossed over to the US illegally have been detained in other federal detention facilities such as Victorville Medium II in California, Federal Correctional Facility in Phoenix in Arizona, and a federal detention facility in Washington state.
The Indians account for a sizeable chunk of asylum seekers after Latin Americans.
While the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) have shifted the Indian detainees from their detention centres to the federal prisons citing lack of space and facilities to handle detainees, lawyers representing the Indian detainees said that they suspect the move to shift them from ICE detention centres to federal prisons had more than what meets the eye.
It has twin objectives, said a lawyer. A look at the inmate records of the federal bureau of prisons indicates that a number of detainees from India with unknown release dates have been detained at Victorville Medium II detention facility, besides Sheridan.
“The first objective is to send out a deterrent message to the prospective migrants who would like to seek asylum in the US. Detaining asylum seekers along with hardened criminals, and subjecting them to a tougher prison protocol, which is similar to what the criminals are subjected to, and making them live in hostile conditions would probably scare off a lot of prospective asylum seekers,’’ said a lawyer, who did not wish to be named.
’Quite unusual move’
Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, development director at Innovation Law Lab, which is spearheading the initiative to provide legal help to the Indian detainees, said keeping asylum seekers in federal detention facilities was quite unusual.
“The ICE detention centres are also horrible but detaining asylum seekers at federal prisons is worse,’’ Muirhead said.
She suspected that it’s just an excuse to create more privately run detention facilities for the ICE.
“It would mean more business. You know the detention facilities and prisons run by private companies in the United States is a multi-billion industry,’’ she said.
A lawyer from Portland representing Indian detainees said that some of the Sikh boys told him during his legal visits that when they were detained at the ICE detention centre at Calexico in California, there was a move to shift them to another ICE detention centre at Tacoma in Washington state. “However, they were brought to Victorville Medium federal detention facility in California instead,’’ he said.
Chickenpox, Scabies outbreak
Many of the Sikh detainees have shortened their hair, lawyers who have met them said.
“It could be because of medical reasons as there was an outbreak of scabies, a skin disease, inside Sheridan federal detention facility,’’ said Muirhead.
Los Angeles Times reported on July 13 that there were at least three cases of chicken pox and 40 of scabies at the Victorville Medium facility since the asylum seekers arrived last month.
First Published: Jul 19, 2018 09:48 IST