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Up to 45 more Indians in US custody for crossing border ‘illegally’

The detainees are being held at a federal detention centre in Otero, New Mexico state. With this, the total count of Indian detainees in the US has been pegged at nearly 100.

world Updated: Jun 22, 2018 22:29 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Indians,Illegal immigration,United States
Mexicans caught for illegally crossing the US border at the central processing centre in McAllen, Texas, recently.(AFP File)

Up to 45 more Indians are being held for allegedly entering the United States illegally, taking the total number of such detainees from India to nearly 100.

The new group is being held at a federal detention centre at Otero in New Mexico state.

There wasn’t much information available about them, and a response was awaited from the US agency that apprehends illegal migrants to questions about the exact number in this group, where they are from in India and how long they have been in custody.

The Indian embassy in Washington confirmed Indians were being held at the Otero facility and said the number given by US authorities was “40 to 45”. An official from the Indian consulate in Houston is scheduled to visit the detainees on Tuesday.

Another group of 52 people from India, many of them identified in reports as Punjabi and Hindi speakers, has been held in a federal detention facility at Sheridan in Oregon state for some weeks after illegally entering the US through the Mexican border.

The total number of Indians currently in US custody for illegally entering the country is close to 100. It could be higher as more instances, such as the one on Thursday, come to be known, experts said.

There is no readily available count of the number of Indians being held across the US for illegally entering the country. A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the organisation did not have the numbers and a wider search is required.

These numbers might look like a surge given the Trump administration’s stated aim of curbing illegal immigration, with the recent emphasis on a “zero tolerance” policy. But there has been a steady flow of people from certain parts of India for many years, some of whom seek asylum alleging persecution at home.

The new group of Indian detainees came to light on Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump ordered an end to his administration’s controversial practice of separating children from families illegally crossing over as part of the zero tolerance crackdown on illegal migrants.

The policy change will not impact those from India, as most of them came here alone and were without their families when apprehended, unlike migrants from other countries.

Groups such as the American Civil Rights Union and Innovation Law Lab are pressing authorities to give them legal access to the detainees, but have not had much success. Innovation Law Lab has established a field office to help the detainees.

Community-based organisations such as Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) are also helping find volunteers to act as interpreters for detainees from South Asia, including those from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This will ensure the detainees get help immediately when the “floodgates are opened” and lawyers are given access to them, said Jai Singh of APANO.

First Published: Jun 22, 2018 09:12 IST