Nogales International | 0 comments
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
AZMEX I3 18-6-13
AZMEX I3 18 JUN 2013
Migrants from India follow familiar patterns
Migrants from India
These citizens of India, ages 16, 17, 18, 20, 21 and 43, were detained in Nogales, Sonora in March as they reportedly waited to be smuggled into the United States.
Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 8:41 am | Updated: 8:57 am, Tue Jun 18, 2013.
By Jonathan Clark
Nogales International | 0 comments
Nogales International | 0 comments
A recent spate of detentions of undocumented Indian migrants in the Ambos Nogales area coincides with a reported rise in the number of Central Americans crossing the border illegally into Arizona – and the two trends are likely related.
What's more, the fact that some are requesting political asylum from the United States is consistent with the tactics used by Indian migrants who arrived in large numbers to South Texas starting in 2010-11.
Like the United States, Mexico and Guatemala require visas for visitors from India. However, the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua do not, which makes them an inviting jumping-off point for Indians hoping to make an undocumented entry into the United States.
Eleanor Sohnen, an analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that studies the movement of people worldwide, said evidence suggests that Indians are entering Central American countries by way of Cuba, Ecuador or Brazil, "and traveling along some of the same routes, paying some of the same people who can help them get here… just employing some of the same tools that undocumented Central Americans are using."
"It seems that smugglers are bundling groups of people together, and that's increasingly including Indians," she said.
Sometimes Indian migrants are caught by Mexican authorities after crossing Mexico's porous southern border with Guatemala, as was the case on Friday when the National Migration Institute (INM) announced that it had detained 24 undocumented Indians packed into a smuggler's truck in Chiapas.
Others manage to reach Mexico's northern border with the United States, only to be caught there – as was the case on June 10 when authorities in Nogales, Sonora discovered six undocumented Indian migrants in a safe house, along with 51 Guatemalans and a Honduran. According to local media, the arrests brought to 16 the number of undocumented Indians detained in Nogales, Sonora since March.
Still others make it to the United States only to be detained by U.S. authorities. If they are caught in Santa Cruz County, they might end up at the county jail, which has an agreement with the U.S. Marshal to house federal prisoners.
According to Sheriff Antonio Estrada, 24 Indian citizens were booked into the county jail from June 9-11. Another 11 were booked on Saturday and Sunday, according to jail staff.
"This is totally new. A few would pop up here and there, but never in these numbers," Estrada said. "I hadn't seen that in my 20 years as sheriff, and in my 45 years in law enforcement it's also a rarity."
The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector could not immediately provide numbers of Indian citizens its agents have detained of late in Arizona. However, nationwide data and estimates suggest that illegal immigration from India has risen sharply in the past decade.
Previously released Border Patrol data showed that the agency apprehended 1,221 undocumented Indians in fiscal year 2010, up from 235 in FY 2005. And a Department of Homeland Security report estimated that there were 240,000 undocumented Indians living in the county in January 2011, a two-fold increase from 120,000 in 2000.
Judith Gans, manager of the immigration policy program at the University of Arizona's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, said there are several possible explanations for the uptick in undocumented entries by Indians.
U.S. consular officials in India might have raised the bar for visa applicants, or the increased number of undocumented Indian immigrants in the United States could be creating better information flows and social networks that attract even more migrants, Gans wrote in an email.
"Another possibility is that, as India's economy has grown, the capacity to emigrate has increased so that more people are trying – either legally or illegally – to leave India," she wrote.
In late 2010 and early 2011, authorities in South Texas began to sound the alarm over a sudden jump in undocumented migrants from India. It's an area that has traditionally been a crossing point for migrants from Central America.
"It's closer for people coming from Central America, and, until recently, there has not been as much of an official presence in that area of the border," Sohnen said.
But as factors such as a slowly improving U.S. economy, lack of opportunity and high levels of violence and gang activity at home continue to push Central Americans to migrate along those routes, an increasing number appear to be attempting border crossings through Arizona as well.
Organizations that work with migrants in Nogales, Sonora have reported seeing more Central Americans, and Estrada said he's been housing more at the county jail in Nogales. Citing data from the Border Patrol, the Spanish news agency EFE reported last week that the agency's Tucson Sector arrested 14,198 undocumented Central Americans from Oct. 1, 2012 to May 1, an increase of 2,873 over the same period the previous year. (A Tucson Sector spokesman was not immediately able to confirm those numbers for the NI on Monday.)
The EFE story cited Maria Jimena Diaz Gonzalez, consul general for Guatemala in Arizona, as saying that recent kidnappings and murders of Central American migrants in northeast Mexico may be pushing more of the flow through Sonora to Arizona.
Sohnen said she couldn't comment on that possibility, but said that "relative enforcement priorities on U.S. side" often play a key role in determining border-crossing patterns.
"The migrants themselves don't often have a choice about where they're crossing," she said. "If they're relying on smugglers, they go the way the smugglers want them to go. So smugglers might be reacting to different forces as well."
Some of the Indians held recently at the county jail turned themselves in to U.S. authorities and requested an asylum hearing, citing a "credible fear" of persecution if they are repatriated to India, Estrada said.
Maria Elena Upson, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said her agency could not discuss the specifics of the asylum requests, or even confirm that they had been filed. "Asylum applications are confidential under immigration law, and we may not discuss information regarding whether an individual has or has not filed an application," she wrote in an email.
But Aseema Sinha, an expert on Indian politics at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., was skeptical that many Indians could credibly claim persecution.
"India is a democratic country and very few groups can rightfully make arguments for asylum, especially at this moment as many ethnic conflicts have abated," she said.
Religious Sikhs could have made legitimate claims of persecution in the 1980s, she said, but that is no longer the case, especially since Punjab, the state where many Sikhs live, is now governed by a Sikh-based party called the Akali Dal.
The Indian inmates now at the Santa Cruz County jail specified their religion as either Hindu – the country's dominant religion – or "other," a jail staffer said.
Reports by the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press on the 2011 influx of Indian migrants to South Texas found that many were Sikhs who sought asylum hearings on the grounds that they suffered religious persecution, or members of opposition political parties who said they were targeted for violence by the ruling National Congress Party. Some were able to convince immigration judges to grant bond during the fact-finding period of their cases, and then have a family member or friend in the U.S. post the bond.
"Then they melt into American society and skip subsequent court dates," the AP wrote. "Immigration courts eventually order them deported, but only in absentia."
According to the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. immigration judges have granted between 244 and 282 asylum requests from Indians each fiscal year from 2008 to 2012, a small percentage of the approximately 11,000 to 12,000 total requests granted each year to citizens of all countries.
However, while the number of asylum requests granted to Indian citizens has remained stable, the number of applications jumped from 1,040 in 2008 to 2,622 in 2011, before dipping to 1,703 in 2012.
According to USCIS, which reviews asylum requests before they go to a immigration judge, it has received 485 "credible fear" asylum referrals from Indian nationals through the first half of the current fiscal year – already more than the 426 it received in all of 2012.
However, those numbers are still well short of those from 2010 and 2011, when Indians made 735 and 1,940 credible fear asylum requests, respectively.