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93 Punjabi illegal entrants languish in US jails

By Ritu Jha/
Last updated on: August 28, 2014 16:14 IST
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'The Punjab government should initiate proper implementation of the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Bill to save youth from fraudulent travel agents and the human trafficking mafia.'
Ritu Jha/ reports from California.

Ninety three people from Punjab are detained in jails across the United States since they had improper or no documentation while entering the country at the Mexico-Texas border, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The California-based North American Punjabi Association, a non-profit body providing legal aid to detainees, has asked the US government to release these would-be immigrants.

"There are reportedly 93 inmates from Punjab," Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director, NAPA, told after receiving information via an US Freedom of Information Act request on August 16.

Chahal received phone calls for help from Punjabi detainees at the El Paso processing centre in Texas, who went on a hunger strike in April.

"After a visit (at the processing centre) I learned that there are many Punjabi detainees in other detention centres. I urge the ICE and US federal government to release them on parole or on bond," Chahal added.

These cases, Chahal said, highlighted the problem of "human trafficking" in Punjab. "The state government should initiate measures for proper implementation of the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Bill 2010-2012 to save youth from fraudulent travel agents and the human trafficking mafia and the resultant humiliation and hardships in foreign lands apart from sufferings of their dependent families at home."

"Out of these 93," Chahal said, "nine are convicted criminals and 84 are immigration violators with no criminal background." The numbers sent to NAPA were on the basis of the last names of the detainees (Singh and Kaur).

"We are assuming that the numbers are more than double," Chahal said. "At the El Paso processing centre, the records said there were 19 detainees. But there are 33, according to detainees at the centre."

There are 34 detainees at the ELOY federal contract facility, 19 at the El Paso service processing centre, 10 in the Utah county jail, eight in the Florence Correctional Centre in Florence, Arizona, five at the Wackenhut correction corporation, four in the Central Arizona Detention Centre, three in the northwest detention centre, two in the Yuba county jail and a few more in other detention centres, according to figures available with the NAPA.

"The Punjabi community will extend all possible help to secure their release on parole or on bond by providing legal assistance and moral support to the best of our ability and resources," Chahal said. "But we will not extend any kind of help to those Punjabi detainees who are convicted."

Image: Immigrants rights supporters rally outside the US Immigration Customs Enforcement Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington state, March 11, 2014. Dozens of detainees went on a hunger strike protesting deportations and detention centre conditions. Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

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Ritu Jha/ in California