Hearing On August 30 For Sikh Hunger Striker in United States

PORTLAND, OREGON—An Indian of the Sikh faith who fled India three years ago to seek U.S. asylum from political persecution says the federal immigration agents violated his confidentiality by “outing” him to the Indian Consulate. 

Judge Andrea Sloan of the U.S. Immigration Court in Portland, Oregon, will hear the case of Harkeet Singh on August 30. Mr. Singh is one of the 60 Sikh asylum-seekers who joined a two-week hunger strike at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas in 2014.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

In court filings, Mr. Singh claims that while at the center, the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) set up a meeting between the Sikhs and a representative of the Indian Consulate. Such a meeting violates the U.S. regulations that bar the disclosure of any information pertaining to an asylum applicant without written consent, says Texas attorney John Lawit of John W. Lawit, LLC, who represents Mr. Singh and 17 others from the group.

 The Sikhs are a religious minority in India and often are persecuted for their beliefs.

“It’s just common sense. Here you have a group of men fleeing their government because they are afraid of it. The very last thing you want to do is force them into a room with a representative of that very government, but that’s exactly what ICE did,” says Mr. Lawit.

According to Mr. Singh, the consular representative told the men that their actions were treasonous and offensive to the Indian government, and threatened to jail them upon their return to India. Specifically, he threatened to imprison them in Tihar, which is known for its human rights violations. Mr. Singh said the representative also told the men that since they were farmers – not doctors or engineers – they were not fit to immigrate.

ICE agents apparently set up the meeting after Mr. Singh and the others went on a hunger strike, hoping it would prompt movement in their immigration cases.

Mr. Singh came to the United States in 2013 following a long and expensive journey that began in the Punjab state in India, then continued across the globe through South and Central America. He crossed the U.S. border at Mexico, surrendered to customs agents and requested asylum. Immigration and appellate courts so far have denied his request.


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