The Influx of Sikh Immigrants into the U.S.

by admin on February 21, 2011

By guest blogger Walter Hendler

Officials in Texas are in awe at the sudden increase in the number of undocumented Indian immigrants entering Texas from its Mexico border.

According to the LA Times [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-border-indians-20110206,0,6862978,full.story], “The immigrants, mostly young men from poor villages, say they are fleeing religious and political persecution. More than 1,600 Indians have been caught since the influx began here early last year, while an undetermined number, perhaps thousands, are believed to have sneaked through undetected, according to U.S. border authorities.” In 2009, Border Patrol only arrested 99 Indians along the entirety of the Southwest border. It is said this recent influx is the “most significant” occurrence of human smuggling being tracked by the U.S. Officials.

While it’s difficult to know how many Indians are coming into the country without being caught, the numbers of arrests has increased dramatically over the last several months, indicating that the migration is increasing. From the LA Times article:

About 650 Indians were arrested in southern Texas in the last three months of 2010 alone. Indians are now the largest group of immigrants other than Latin Americans being caught at the Southwest border.
It is not clear how many Indians have been granted asylum or deported; immigration officials did not fulfill requests for that information. Judges and attorneys appear to be toughening up, however. Bond amounts have risen sharply in recent months, and attorneys say asylum claims are increasingly being rejected.

It is believed that most of them are following a path to the United States that takes them first through the Middle East, then to countries like Guatemala, Ecuador or Venezuela. From there they are sneaked into Mexico and take either public buses or private transport north to the border with the United States. Once they cross the border it is believed that a large number of them are taken into custody, though there is no way of knowing how many slip through the Border Patrol’s checkpoints.

Political persecution based on ethnicity or religion qualifies persons under certain circumstances for a refugee visa, or “asylum” under US law. The issue, however, is whether Sikh migrants are truly refugees and qualify for asylum or the economic refugee and are migrating to the USA in search of a better life.

Sikhs, although making up a sizeable portion of India’s population, have been the subject of government discrimination for decades. It is possible that the current trend in Sikh migration into the US across the Mexican border is due to renewed persecution, although not as much information on the current state of discrimination against Sikhs in India can be found online. However, Global Sikh News [http://www.sikhsangat.org/2011/02/sikhs-in-india-in-jeopardy/] has provided a brief overview of the history of discrimination against Sikhs, with some historical accounts of persecution carried out by the Indian government.

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