Indian detainees in US not handcuffed, says legal aid volunteer
It was not my statement that immigrants detained at Sheridan (Oregon) have been kept in handcuffs and chains since their arrival. My statement has been misconstrued by the media,” Navneet Kaur, a community college professor, said in a statement.world Updated: Jul 21, 2018 10:31 IST
The over 50 Indian nationals, mostly Sikhs from Punjab, detained in a prison in the US state of Oregon after illegally entering the country are not being handcuffed, a legal advocacy group volunteer said on Friday.
Media reports had claimed that the Indian immigrants, seeking asylum in the US fearing religious and political persecution back home, were being treated like criminals in a federal prison, where they have been detained for the past several weeks now.
“It was not my statement that immigrants detained at Sheridan (Oregon) have been kept in handcuffs and chains since their arrival or that they are in handcuffs and chains 24/7 now. My statement has been misconstrued by the media,” Navneet Kaur, a community college professor, said in a statement.
Kaur who has been volunteering with the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab in providing legal aid to the detainees said her account is based on her visit to the prison and meetings with them.
Her main role is to provide translation to the detainees, a majority of whom speak only Punjabi.
“On July 14, during the 105th year celebration held in commemoration of the Ghadar Party in Astoria, Oregon, I spoke against the grave violations of human rights experienced by immigrants detained in America. My statement was based on the accounts I have heard during my visits to the federal detention centre in Sheridan, Oregon,” said Kaur. “I gave a few examples of such violations including not giving them access to legal representation, keeping them in prison cells 22 hours a day, keeping them handcuffed and chained for a 24-hour period upon the arrival.”
It is her understanding that “conditions” at the detention centre have improved since the immigrants initial arrival in late May 2018, she said.
‘Detainees being processed’
Meanwhile, an official from the Indian consulate in San Francisco visited the Sheridan prison to have a first-hand assessment of the condition of Indians detained in the prison.
US immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) officials in an email to North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) has said that it is processing all detainees in accordance with the US immigration law.
“ICE has met with all detainees to advise them of their rights to speak with their consular representatives. Detainees have access to legal representation,” Melissa Nitsch, community relations officer, told NAPA.
“Any asylum claims are forwarded promptly to the US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS) asylum office in San Francisco. Interviews are underway by USCIS, and determinations of credible fear are at the discretion of USCIS (not ICE),” Nitsch said.
First Published: Jul 20, 2018 19:27 IST