Punjabi Refugees Most Often Seek Asylum in Peoria, Arizona

The Indian flag blowing in the wind behind a barbed wire fence.Every year, thousands of refugees flee from a country where they no longer feel safe to seek safety and build a new life in the United States. However, in Peoria, Arizona, refugees from India, particularly the Punjab state, are becoming more and more common. Up from about 200 refugees a little over a decade ago to over 1,000 in 2015, Peoria, Arizona, is now seeing a major increase in the number of asylum-seekers from India.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Arizona leads the nation in the number of deportation cases involving immigrants from India. In 2016, Arizona had more than twice the number of Indian refugees than both Texas and California, both states with substantial amounts of immigrant activity.

Though it is still more common to have immigrants from Mexico or other Central American countries seeking asylum in the United States, immigration lawyers are noticing an uptick in the number of immigrants from India, as well. According to these lawyers, a large portion of Indian immigrants are young men of the Sikh faith, fleeing religious and personal persecution and discrimination.

There is no single reason, though, as to why so many of these refugees are entering the United States in Arizona. According to immigration attorney Deepak Ahluwalia, quoted in a 2016 report from Cronkite News, the smugglers are often the ones who choose the route, not the refugees, and it may just be a coincidence that Peoria sees so many Sikh asylum seekers. However, he argues, despite the high numbers, they still deserve a fair hearing on their asylum requests.

The Sikh Experience in India

Michael Kugelman, the senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Institute, explained to Cronkite News how there has been a long history of tension between the Sikh community and Hindus. There has, in fact, been a long history of significant discrimination against religious minorities in general throughout India’s history, and the present day is no exception to that pattern.

In 2011, around 80% of the population of India identified as Hindu, whereas around 14% identified as Muslim, and only 2% of the total population of India identified as Sikh, putting them as an extreme minority in the country and, unfortunately, putting them at increased risk to suffer violence and discrimination at the hand of the majority.

Many current Sikhs also belong to a political party, Shiromani Akali Dal Mann Party, that is seeking to make Punjab a sovereign nation. Since they are actively fighting against the current ruling party of Punjab, Sikhs are at an increased risk of being attacked as political dissidents, hence the reason why many are fleeing to the United States to seek safety. According to Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration attorney in the U.S., “Sikhs are often beaten, threatened, and targeted for their beliefs.”

Seeking Asylum in the United States With Help From an Immigration Attorney

In order to seek asylum, someone must show that there is “credible fear” for their life if they stay in their current country, which is likely not the immediate case for the Sikh people in India, according to Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies.

However, as one immigration lawyer said, “It is difficult to prove that the government is not willing to protect an individual, and these individuals are at high risk of being tortured if they are returned to their country.” Attorney Ahluwalia states that since Sikhs wear turbans and beards, they are easily identified and would have a difficult time returning to their life in India.

If you are looking for an experienced, compassionate immigration lawyer in the United States, look no further than Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law. With decades of experience, we want to help you with your immigration case. Call us at (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your confidential case review with no obligation.