Sikh-American Youth Protest Detainment of Punjabi Migrants Seeking Asylum

FRESNO, CA, USA—On Friday, April 25, 2014, a van with 12 Sikh men and women traveled the 1,100 mile route from Fresno, CA to El Paso, TX.  The Jakara Movement sevadars (volunteers) left in the morning from Gurdwara Singh Sabha Fresno, after speaking to the media, and being joined by supporters in the sangat congregation. Next these college students went to Guru Angad Darbar in Bakersfield.  There, supporters met them and gave them strength.  They also met with members of Mexican youth groups who wanted to show their support. They spoke to the media and then traveled to Pacoima, CA.  In Pacoima, they stopped at Khalsa Care Foundation Gurdwara and met with more than 50 members of the sangat.  They had a conversation and shared information about the detained Punjabis.  After leaving Pacoima they traveled to Artesia, CA.  There in’ Little India’ they worked with the South Asian Network, and passed out flyers to the shoppers to teach them about the Punjabi detainees.  Finally they left Artesia and traveled to El Paso.

Twenty-four hours after leaving Fresno, they had arrived in El Paso on Saturday, April 26, 2014.  One member of the group was able to enter the detention center and find out about their conditions.  The other eleven staged a rally outside the El Paso Detention Facility.  Jakara Movement staff Palvinder Kaur said, “We will travel any distance to stand with our Sikh brothers and sisters.  We heard their call and we
are here for them.”

The one sevadar that visited the detainees sat with them for [recitation of the scripture] Sukhmani Sahib.  He then listened to their stories.  One detainee shared the difficult conditions they are facing.  Many of them were worried about their cases, because many lawyers take advantage of them and their family, charging them a lot of money, but not helping them get out. Despite their hardships, knowing that the Sikh youth care for them filled them with chardikala (high spirits) and hope.  The van with the 12 Singhs and Kaurs then left El Paso, and returned to Fresno on Sunday morning, April 27, 2014.

The Jakara Movement sevadars are now in touch with the detainees, and are working with others groups to help provide for their needs.  In addition to sending them cloth for turbans, and books in Punjabi, they are working with lawyers who understand immigration law, and can help these men get released.

This is not a story of illegality.  This is a story of Punjabi men doing everything correctly, but a system that continues to fail.  Many times in America, people think immigration is an issue about Mexicans.  It is our issue.  Sikhs need to fight for a just immigration policy that is kind and sensible.  We must begin to join our Mexican brothers and sisters in protests and demonstrations.  We must give a Sikh voice to the immigration debate.  People seeking asylum from tyrannical governments, like India, must always find freedom and opportunity in America.

More info and pictures from the trip can be viewed at www.elpaso37.org

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