Record Number of Indians Seeking Asylum in US at Mexico Border
In the current fiscal year that started last October, a record 16,290 Indian citizens have been taken into custody by US Border Patrol at the Mexican border. A substantial number of them are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits who are escaping persecution in the country ruled by the Hindu Nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Genocide Watch has issued "India Genocide Warning" stating as follows: "Islamophobia is no longer a fringe sentiment in India. It has become a state-manufactured ideology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made Islamophobia central to its program for harassing India's 192 million Muslims and depriving them of their rights as Indian citizens".
|Indian Asylum Seekers at US-Mexico Border. Source: BBC|
Experts attribute the record increase in asylum seekers to a a number of factors, including rising discrimination in India, an end to pandemic-era restrictions, a perception that the current US administration is welcoming to asylum seekers and the ramping-up of previously established smuggling networks, according to the BBC.
Of the roughly 3.5 million undocumented immigrants who entered the country between 2010 and 2017, 65 percent arrived with full permission stamped into their passports, according to new figures compiled by the Center for Migration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank. During that period, more overstayers arrived from India than from any other country, according to the New York Times.
It's a similar story in the UK where Home Secretary Suella Braverman was recently quoted by the BBC as saying: "I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don't think that's what people voted for with Brexit… The largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants. We even reached an agreement with the Indian government last year to encourage and facilitate better cooperation in this regard. It has not necessarily worked very well."
India has also become the biggest source of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States. In 2014 about 136,000 people came to the U.S. from India, about 128,000 from China and about 123,000 from Mexico, census figures show. As recently as 2005, Mexico sent more than 10 times as many people to the U.S. as China, and more than six times as many as India, according to the WSJ story.
United States Department of Homeland Security estimates that there were 12.1 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States as of 2014. The top countries of origin are:
Mexico = 6.6 million
El Salvador = 700,000
Guatemala = 640,000
India = 430,000
Honduras = 400,000
Philippines = 360,000
The rise of Hindutva forces is tearing India apart along caste and religious lines. Hindu mobs are lynching Muslims and Dalits. A recent Pew Research report confirms that the level of hostility against religious minorities in India is "very high", giving India a score of 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10. Pakistan's score on this scale is 7 while Bangladesh's is 7.5.
|Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg|
Rising hostility against minorities is driving record numbers of asylum seekers to the United States. India has earned a score of 9.5 on a scale of 0-10 assessed by Pew Research. Genocide Watch attributes it the rise of Narendra Modi in India: "Modi rose to power by inciting Hindus with his time-tested politics of communal polarization. Beginning in 2014, Modi spent his first term as Prime Minister dehumanizing Muslims by passing laws preventing cow slaughter, restricting Muslim immigration, and purportedly countering Islamist terrorism. Modi's second term, beginning in 2019, has seen more brazen attempts by the BJP to turn India into a “Hindu Rashtra"."
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Despite being the world's largest democracy with over 1.3 billion people, thousands of Indians regularly leave India to seek asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere. It's often on the top-ten list of countries from whom asylum seekers come to the United States. For example, more than 4,000 Indians affirmatively applied for asylum in the U.S. in 2017, according to the latest figures from the Department of Homeland Security.
Post-Brexit, one of the big prizes in UK trade talks would be a deal with India, and Scotch whisky could benefit most. A deal has been getting close.
It is now in doubt because of comments by new Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Saying that Indians are over-staying their work permits strikes at the biggest gain that Delhi wants to see, and has caused offence.
Suella Braverman, (is the) newly installed as home secretary. In charge of immigration policy, she told The Spectator magazine that she is concerned about Indians who come to the UK to work and then fail to return when their visas run out. She said Indian nationals are the most numerous offenders.
"I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don't think that's what people voted for with Brexit… The largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants. We even reached an agreement with the Indian government last year to encourage and facilitate better cooperation in this regard. It has not necessarily worked very well."
The comments have gone down very badly in India. The country's press is expressing its indignation that the home secretary should insult Indians that way.
According to the Wrestling Federation of India, the country entered 30 wrestlers for the competition, which started yesterday, October 17, and will end on October 23. Nonetheless, only nine of the total number of wrestlers were issued a visa by the Spanish Embassy, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
Part of the group of the Indian wrestlers who were refused a visa were gold medal-winning players, including Antim Panghal, who is the first Indian woman to win the gold medal in the junior world championships in the 53 kilograms weight class.
Commenting on the visa refusals, the Wrestling Federation of India said that it would require the United World Wrestling to not give hosting rights to Spain for any future tournament.
“Wrestling Federation of India will complain in writing to the World Wrestling Federation, criticizing this attitude of the Spanish Embassy. And at the same time, it will also urge that no important wrestling competition should be organized in Spain in future,” the Indian Wrestling Federation added.
Apart from the above-mentioned, the Wrestling Federation of India also expressed frustration with the reason for visa refusals that the Spanish Embassy gave to them.
Sportstar explains that the Embassy of Spain in New Delhi refused the visa application of one of the applicants since there were reasonable doubts about their intention to leave the territory of the Member States before the expiry date.
The Embassy also said that the decision on the visa refusal in this particular case was also taken as the information submitted regarding the justification for the purpose and conditions of the intended stay was not reliable.
It is believed that the others have also been given similar reasons for their visa refusal. However, there is no official information provided yet.
Earlier in August, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that the number of nationals in India who applied for a visa at the Spanish Embassy significantly increased over the summer. This happened because the other countries did not have available appointment slots or were taking too long to process the applications.
CHENNAI, India — (AP) — Arjun Viswanathan stood on the street, his hands folded, eyes fixed on the idol of the Hindu deity Ganesh.
On a humid morning, the information technology professional was waiting outside the temple, the size of a small closet – barely enough room for the lone priest to stand and perform puja or rituals for the beloved elephant-headed deity, believed to be the remover of obstacles.
Viswanathan was among about a dozen visitors, most of them there for the same purpose: To offer prayers so their U.S. visa interviews would go smoothly and successfully. Viswanathan came the day before his interview for an employment visa.
“I came here to pray for my brother’s U.K. visa 10 years ago and for my wife’s U.S. visa two years ago,” he said. “They were both successful. So I have faith."
The Sri Lakshmi Visa Ganapathy Temple is a few miles north of the airport in Chennai (formerly Madras), a bustling metropolis on the Coromandel Coast in southeast India -- known for its iconic cuisine, ancient temples and churches, silk saris, classical music, dance and sculptures.
This “visa temple” has surged in popularity among U.S. visa seekers over the past decade; they can be found in almost any Indian city with a U.S. consulate. They typically gain a following through word of mouth or social media.
A mile away from the Ganesh temple is the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Navaneetha Krishnan Temple, where an idol of Hanuman – a deity who has a human body and the face of a monkey — is believed to possess the power to secure visas. Also known as “Anjaneya,” this god stands for strength, wisdom and devotion. In this temple, he has earned the monikers “America Anjaneya” and “Visa Anjaneya.”
The temple’s longtime secretary, G.C. Srinivasan, said it wasn’t until 2016 that this temple became a “visa temple.”
“It was around that time that a few people who prayed for a visa spread the word around that they were successful, and it's continued,” he said.
A month ago, Srinivasan said he met someone who got news of his visa approval even as as he was circumambulating the Anjaneya idol — a common Hindu practice of walking around a sacred object or site.
On a recent Saturday night, devotees decorated the idol with garlands made of betel leaves. S. Pradeep, who placed a garland on the deity, said he was not there to pray for a visa, but believes in the god's unique power.
“He is my favorite god,” he said. “If you genuinely pray – not just for visa – it will come true.”
At the Ganesh temple, some devotees had success stories to share. Jyothi Bontha said her visa interview at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai went without a hitch, and that she had returned to offer thanks.
“They barely asked me a couple of questions,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
Bontha’s friend, Phani Veeranki, stood nearby, nervously clutching an envelope containing her visa application and supporting documents. Bontha and Veeranki, both computer science students from the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh and childhood friends, are headed to Ohio.
Both learned about the visa temple on the social media platform Telegram.
Veeranki said she was anxious because she had a lot riding on her upcoming visa interview.
“I’m the first person in my family to go the United States,” she said. “My mother is afraid to send me. But I’m excited for the opportunities I’ll have in America.”
Veeranki then handed over the envelope to the temple’s priest for him to place at the foot of the idol for a blessing.
“We’ve been hearing about applications being rejected,” she said, her hands still folded in prayer. “I’m really hoping mine gets approved.”
If she and Bontha make it to Ohio, they want to take a trip to Niagara Falls.
“I’ve always wanted to see it,” Bontha said.
"My mind is dark. I cannot move forward, nor go back," says Dimple K, an Indian woman who's been living in Canada on a student visa since December 2017.
She is now among more than 150 Indian students who have been told to leave the country by the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA).
The CBSA alleges these students arrived in the country on the basis of forged college admission letters.
The students claim innocence and insist that they were duped by their immigration consultation agency in India that provided them the document.
Many who received the eviction letters are now embarrassed to come forward, fearing stigma.
Living in a western country is seen as a matter of prestige by many Indian families, especially in Punjab, the state to which Dimple belongs.
In a similar case four years ago, 129 Indian students in the US were arrested for enrolling in a fake university.
Emails sent by the BBC to the Indian high commission in Canada and the Canadian high commission in India did not get a response.
Dimple is married and comes from a middle-class family in Jalandhar district. Daughter of a tailor father and a homemaker mother, she has three siblings.
A post-graduate in science, she tried to get a job in India for a long time, but was unsuccessful.
The hope of a better life with her husband prompted her to apply for a student visa in Canada.
From her cousin, she heard of an immigration agency - which police say has been shut for the past seven months - and used its services to get a Canadian visa.
"The agency told me that one of the colleges had accepted my documents, and gave me the admission letter which they said was from the college," she tells the BBC over phone.
Dimple paid the agency 1.2m rupees ($14,525; £11,970). The amount was to cover her college fee. The agency also gave her a certificate to prove that she had funds to take care of living expenses in Canada.
But Dimple says within two days of her arrival in the country, she was informed by the agency that there had been a strike in her college. They advised to apply to another college.
In December 2019, Dimple completed her diploma in computer networking and received her work permit. But in May 2022, a year after she had applied for permanent residency, she was informed by Canadian authorities that her application had a forged document.
In January, she was served an exclusion order - which usually means an order to leave the country. She has been told to leave Canada and not return for at least five years.
She has challenged the order in a federal court in Canada.
Her attorney Jaswant Singh Mangat is representing over three dozen students who are in a similar situation.
In most of these cases, he says, fake admission letters were provided at an exorbitant fees. These were used to obtain visas.
After finishing their courses, many of these students obtained their work permits and then applied for permanent residency. That's when the immigration department discovered that there were issues with their admission documents.
"Couldn't immigration officials detect the documents were fake at the airport, or while issuing student visas, [so] how was I expected to find that out?," asks Dimple.