Mexico deportations put spotlight on Punjab youth crossing border to seek asylum in US

Anju Agnihotri Chaba
Manpreet Singh was deported from the US on August 29.

On Saturday, 311 Indian migrants were deported from Mexico for the first time on a special charted plane to New Delhi, accompanied by 73 Mexican officials. The youngsters were supposed to enter the US via the Mexico border. This move has put the spotlight on the deportation of a large number of Punjab youth on earlier occasions.

Prior to this, on August 29 and September 12, around 90 youths were deported from the US' detention centres through various flights, respectively. The youngsters had entered the US either by crossing the fencing or by climbing a small wall along the US-Mexico border. Most of them spent nearly three to five months in detention centres made close to the border areas.

“More than 60 youths, including 10 from Doaba region, were deported from US detention camp on September 12 through various routine flights as we were from Punjab and Haryana,” Kamalpreet Singh, 25, a resident of Uccha village in Jalandhar said. He had left India on April 2 and had arrived in Mexico on April 5. He had entered the border by climbing a wall.

Kamalpreet remained at the detention centre from April 26 till September 11.

His father Sukhbir Singh said he had paid Rs. 25 lakh to an agent to send his son and $5,000 to a lawyer in the US to file an appeal in the court for Kamalpreet's stay under the “asylum protection" rule. However, the family did not expect to get their money back as the agent  went incommunicado a month ago.

“My son's case was weak because a bond was required to be filled there regarding his asylum protection but somehow my lawyer missed that and he was deported back. Now, he will do farming with me,” Sukhbir said, adding that he had already borrowed a huge amount of money to send his son to the states. Sukhbir owns five acres of land.

Another youth, Manpreet Singh, 24, of Johlan village in Jalandhar, was also deported along with 25 others on August 29. It had taken him around 10 days reach Mexico.

“We first took a flight to Greece from New Delhi and spent three days there and then went to France on another flight where we lived for four days and finally reached Mexico and entered the US border on May 11 where I stayed for three-and-a-half months in at a detention centre before being deported on August 29,” he said. He added that he paid Rs 26 lakh to pay an agent and $1,900 during this period.

Harjot Singh and Parwinder Singh of Sangal Sohal village were also deported along with Manpreet on August 29.

Another youth from Dhilwan in Kapurthala district, who was also deported on September 12, said that he and his friend had spent Rs 52 lakh to reach the US but due to stringent guidelines, their cases could not be filed for an appeal to seek "asylum protection". He added that more than 60 Punjabis had hired lawyers to contest their cases but their applications were rejected and they were deported back. Requesting anonymity, he said that he was making another attempt to go to Canada.

According to data sourced from Regional Passport office in Jalandhar, at least 28-30 youth are deported daily and monthly, the number reaches to around 300 from various countries, including a large number from the US.