At least 52 Indians jailed under US' new 'zero-tolerance' policy
The US has jailed over 1,600 illegal immigrants under its 'zero-tolerance' policy. Of those, 52 detainees in an Oregon federal prison have declared themselves Indian. It isn't known whether they have been separated from their children, but inhumane conditions are rampant: they're apparently jailed for 23 hours, and couldn't talk for weeks due to absence of translators. They claimed they're fleeing "severe religious persecution" in India.
Status of prisoners revealed after congressional delegation visits prison
Reports of these Indians emerged after four members of Oregon's congressional delegation, all Democrats, visited the Sheridan facility in Yamhill County Saturday. Addressing media afterwards, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said they were 'going crazy' after being confined in small cells, three to each, for up to 23 hours daily. They pointed out non-immigrant prisoners were given much more time outside cells.
The most torturous experience for prisoners: Uncertainty
Another stressful factor for the detainees is uncertainty: those with families imprisoned at Sheridan said they had no idea where their wives and children were, and feared they would never meet again. Many said they were kept incommunicado: without any contact with anyone outside, they didn't know when they would get lawyers, when they would be called for a hearing, or what happens next.
Fleeing Sikhs and Christians claim "severe religious persecution" in India
The Indians had gone to the US to "request asylum because they faced severe religious persecution in India...(but) now they're incarcerated in a federal prison," Bonamici said. Such detainees are at high risk of abuse, the Asia-Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) warned. The 1,600 detainees come from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Brazil, China, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Mauritania, Peru, Nepal, Russia, Congo and Eritrea.
'No one should favor ripping children out of parents' arms'
"This is a shameful hour in US history," said Congressman Earl Blumenauer after visiting Sheridan. "I don't care (about) your stance on immigration, no one should favor ripping children out of parents' arms." This "cruel and callous treatment" violates "America's core humanitarian values," conveyed Senator Ron Wyden, another delegation member. "All detainees deserve legal representation and fair treatment," opined Susheela Jayapal, Commissioner-Elect, Multnomah County.
Different groups trying to help the detainees
Efforts are underway to help these detainees. The Indian Embassy in the US is trying to contact them before taking any action. APANO is connecting with local Asian communities to build awareness and support. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have been trying to establish contact with the detainees. Calls have been issued for Indian-American volunteers who understand Hindi and Punjabi.
But Trump consistently refuses to amend policies
The Trump administration has faced widespread backlash over this new policy, under which at least 2,000 children had been separated from their families during April 19-May 31. Thousands took to the streets to protest. All four surviving former First Ladies spoke out. But President Donald Trump has consistently blamed Democrats for "forcing the breakup of families at the border with their horrible legislative agenda."