At an ICE Detention Facility in Georgia, Sikh Asylum Seekers Have Been Tortured

A child's hands grasping a welded wire mesh fence at a detainment facility.In recent years, the United States has seen a previously unprecedented number of Indian people entering the country in an effort to seek asylum. Experts point to growing discrimination in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled India, where Sikh communities are being pushed out due to religious persecution.

For these individuals, the United States presents a rare last chance at a calmer day-to-day. Asylum laws act as the groundwork for any individual who has suffered persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group to legally request to live in the U.S. once they face the threat of deportation.

Nevertheless, at an ICE Processing Center in Folkston, Georgia, vulnerable communities are facing unexpected aggravation and even torture.

Sikh Asylum Seekers Stage Hunger Strike at Georgia ICE Processing Center

After being held in the center for months without any update to their plea for asylum, several Sikh asylum seekers staged a hunger strike. While they did so to protest their indefinite detention, they were then placed in solitary confinement — where the air conditioning was cranked up to unbearably cold temperatures.

The staff did not distribute any additional blankets, layers or warm clothing to the Sikh detainees. Pakistani American director of legal services at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, Javeria Jamil, said point-blank, “They were being tortured by ICE officers.”

How Long Have the Sikh Asylum Seekers Been in the Georgia Facility?

Jamil added that most of the men had been in the facility for several months. In fact, in the eight months that they had been detained, not one of these men (most in their 20s and 30s) had received a single bond hearing.

Traditionally, a bond hearing opens the way for anyone who has established a credible fear of persecution by their home country the right to stay with their family in the United States until their asylum case is heard.

Instead, in an effort to break the group up, ICE officials reassigned several of the asylum seekers to other facilities throughout Georgia. At the time, around 50 Sikh asylum seekers were being held at various ICE detention centers around Georgia.

Why Are Sikh Asylum Seekers Being Detained for So Long?

After the Trump administration (and specifically Attorney General Jeff Sessions) took office, new regulations were instilled controlling how long an individual could be detained after entering the country. Formerly, the government had to show a high legal standard for detaining someone over six months instead of releasing them on bond.

Now, it is very difficult to be released on bond. Indian American attorney Deepak Ahluwalia, who works extensively on Sikh asylum cases, and serves on the Sikh Coalition’s advisory board, explained that bond hearings are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. In fact, requests for release on bond are being out-right denied.

At the time of the initial hunger strike, Atlanta’s grant rate for asylum was just two percent. Moreover, those who are denied asylum can legally be held in detention until officials can obtain their travel documents from the Indian government, which can take several months.

These and other due process violations actively impede an individual’s ability to apply for asylum, and expose refugees to additional persecution in the United States as well as their country of origin.

Reach Out to Immigration Attorneys Who Want to Fight for Your Rights

If you or a loved one are facing discrimination or challenges in regard to securing release on bond or your larger asylum application, do not hesitate to reach out to Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law. Compassionate immigration lawyers are available to assist and dedicated to fighting for your right to live the life you deserve, free from persecution.

Call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your confidential case review with no obligation.