Indians detained in US ‘in shackles’: India’s Consulate General in San Francisco seeking access

The prison in Portland where 52 Indians have been detained

PORTLAND USA(TIP) Three men bunked in a small cell for more than 22 hours a day. No access to legal help. Lawyers willing to help pro bono, but authorities say no. In shackles and forced to eat food in cells next to open toilets. No idea where their families might be, or when the next court hearing is. Two men shot at but not provided medical care.

Activists and lawyers working for the detainees have told The Tribune in India that almost all of the 123 persons — 52 of whom are Indians — being held at a federal prison in Portland, Oregon (US), are living in sub-human conditions. The Tribune could not independently verify these claims, but a host of respected legal and voluntary organizations have talked about the inhuman conditions in which these detainees from 16 different countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal and Brazil, have been kept at Oregon’s Sheridan detention center.

“They are from 16 countries and speak 13 languages. We believe many of them have been detained since mid-May after seeking asylum at the port of San Diego,” said Jai Singh, Field Organizer for voluntary organization APANO (Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon).

Facing criticism globally and at home, even within his own Republican Party, President Donald Trump has backed down on the controversial immigration order separating young children from families. However, the fate of 1,600 plus illegal immigrants detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains unsure. The largest group of immigrants at the Sheridan facility comprises 52 Indians, most of them Sikh or Christian, who have sought asylum to avoid “religious persecution” back home.

Ministry of External Affairs sources underline that the cases of asylum seekers are different from the diaspora arrested in foreign countries under criminal charges.

Officials claim some of them could be seeking asylum under the pretext of “religious persecution” only to avoid the law of the land for crimes they might have committed.

However, sources said K Venkata Ramana, Consul (Community Affairs, Information & Culture), Consulate General of India, San Francisco, was seeking consular access to the detainees in Portland. He would try to ascertain details of the Indians at the Oregon center.

The detainees have not been allowed visits by faith leaders or any meaningful access to attorneys, which is in violation of the US Constitution, federal immigration laws and international treaties, point out lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon), Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Oregon Chapter (AILA Oregon).

In a joint letter, they have said while the courts decide the fate of these men’s asylum claims, the ICE must ensure the federal prison complies with civil detention standards. “There should be no deportations until all 123 men have meaningful access to lawyers,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director of ACLU, Oregon. Civil organizations claim the detainees are allowed out of their cell for 15 minutes at a time, three times a day. They are forced to eat in their cells nextto open toilets.

Be the first to comment

The Indian Panorama - Best Indian American Newspaper in New York & Dallas - Comments