Asylum Politics: How ICE Violates Rights in El Paso

Asylum Politics: How ICE Violates Rights in El Paso

"Singh has experienced something very different from the American dream he had hoped for.  He has spent every day since his arrival—more than a year—inside a dorm room in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s El Paso Processing Center, a group of blue-and-white low-slung buildings tucked behind barbed wire near the airport.  He’s one of dozens of Sikh men at the facility experiencing prolonged detention. ... “We came here out of fear for our lives,” Singh says, “but now they just keep us locked up. It’s almost worse.”  When he began his difficult journey, Singh did not expect to be confined for so long.  The same day he was detained, he passed his “credible fear” screening, an interview with a U.S. asylum officer that establishes whether an immigrant has a “well-founded fear of persecution” in his home country based on one of five factors: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group.  (Sikhs, a religious minority who make up 2 percent of India’s population, have long experienced persecution in their home country.)  Passing a credible-fear interview makes a detainee eligible for parole from ICE custody until his asylum hearing.  About 80 percent of detainees who pass their credible-fear tests are paroled before their hearing. Internal ICE policy states that asylum seekers can be paroled “provided the aliens present neither a security risk nor a risk of absconding.”  Singh does not have a criminal history, and his uncle in Philadelphia would happily take him in. ... ICE did something unusual: it allowed N. P. S. Saini, a representative from the Indian consulate in Houston, to come and talk to the detainees.  Sharing information about a person seeking political asylum with a representative of the very country that person is fleeing is unorthodox and a violation of federal regulations governing the confidentiality of asylum applicants.  ... “[That visit] violates every protocol there is for the protection of asylum seekers,” says Dallas-based immigration attorney John Lawit, who represents Singh, Grewal, and five other Sikh detainees in El Paso. “Our government went out of its way to turn them in to their own government, and they did it with impunity.”" - Sonia Smith, Texas Monthly, Aug. 2014.