Indian Asylum Seeker Numbers Spike at U.S./Mexico Border

A U.S. Border Patrol agent questions a driver at a highway checkpoint in West Enfield, Maine, on August 1. The U.S. has seen a rise in the number of Indian nationals showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border to claim asylum this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows.  Scott Eisen/Getty

The U.S. has seen an increase in the number of Indian nationals showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border to claim asylum this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows.

During the 2018 fiscal year so far, more than 3,750 people arrested by Border Patrol agents by April 2018 were Indian nationals, according to data from the Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearing House (TRAC).

The number represents a sharp increase from fiscal year 2017, which saw a total of 2,055 people from India detained by Border Patrol agents. The total for fiscal year 2016 reached 3,398, a number already surpassed in 2018.

The Global Trends report from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) found that a total of 7,400 Indian nationals sought asylum in the U.S. in 2017.

Out of 168 countries from which nationals sought asylum in the U.S., India had the eighth highest number, just behind Haiti.

U.S. Representative Mark Takano told the Los Angeles Times that he was surprised to learn that as many as 40 percent of immigration detainees at California's FCI Victorville, a federal prison where hundreds of immigrants are currently being held, were Indian nationals seeking asylum.

Takano, who has not responded to a request for comment from Newsweek, told the newspaper that a number of men told him they had been persecuted by India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party for supporting other political groups, claiming that they had been "bullied into doing things that were immoral."

The men said some had been forced to "carry drugs" or "perpetrate violence against others."

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Human Rights Watch has warned about "vigilante violence" being aimed at critics of the ruling BJP, saying attacks carried out by groups claiming to support the party have "became an increasing threat in India in 2017."

The human rights organization warned in a January 2018 press release that "extremist Hindu groups" claiming to support the BJP "committed numerous assaults against Muslims and other minority communities" in response to "rumors that minority group members sold, bought or killed cows for beef."

It asserted that at least 10 people had been killed in such attacks in 2017.

HRW said the Indian government had "failed to stop or credibly investigate vigilante attacks against minority religious communities" while many senior BJP leaders had publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultranationalism, which the human rights organization said had "encouraged further violence."

In the same press release, HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said: "Indian authorities have proven themselves unwilling to protect minority religious communities and other vulnerable groups from frequent attack."

Ganguly called on the country's leadership to make a "serious effort to prevent future attacks and to prosecute all those responsible for the violence."

Despite claims of fearing political and religious persecution in their home country, few Indian nationals have seen their asylum claims approved.

Of the 3,752 Indian nationals processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents, 3,561 were denied entry and recommended for "expedited removal," according to TRAC data.

That would mean more than 94 percent of Indian asylum seekers processed by border patrol would have been referred for deportation without any removal proceedings, including a hearing before an immigration judge.