More than 50 individuals from India, some of them probably separated from their children, are reportedly incarcerated at a federal prison in Oregan under the Trump administration’s tough ”zero-tolerance” policy against illegal immigration, an Asia-Pacific activist organization said on Tuesday.
Over the last month, 123 immigrants searching asylum have been detained and transferred to Oregon’s Sheridan federal prison in Yamhill County, the Asia-Pacific American Network of Oregan said, revealing that the majority of the 123 people in the Sheridan prison are South Asian, who speak primarily Hindi and Punjabi, and a few identified as Chinese. These detainees are isolated, have limited access to interpretation, and are at-risk of abuse in their current prison housing arrangement, the organization warned.
The organization indicated that the detention involved separating children from parents but did not say how many were affected.
”2,000 kids have been separated from their families, some for 2 months. This is the definition of cruel and unusual,” said Susheela Jayapal, Commissioner-Elect for Multnomah County, referring to the national crisis. ”This policy of family separation needs to end now; and in the meantime, all detainees deserve legal representation and fair treatment, beginning with transparency about their children’s whereabouts and humane detention conditions.”
The detention of Indian immigrants seldom catches national attention since most of the focus is on Latino/Hispanic immigration. But the Oregon episode came to light after four members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, all Democrats, went to the Sheridan facility and emerged angry and emotional Saturday after touring the detention center.
According to the Oregonian, the migrants told the politicians they are locked up 22 to 23 hours a day, three to a cell. It’s been difficult to impossible to talk to a lawyer. Those with families say they have no idea where their wives or children are, and they fear they’ll be deported and separated from them forever.
”This is a shameful hour in US. history,” said US. Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “I don’t care what your stance on immigration is, no one should favour ripping children out of their parents’ arms ….” Red-faced with tears streaming down his cheeks, TV footage showed Blumenauer unable to continue.
Of the 123 people now in Sheridan, the Oregonian said the most populous nationality is not Honduran or Guatemalan, it is East Indian. Fifty-two listed India as their home country. Several identified themselves as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution from the Hindu majority.
The Indians told the delegation that their Hindi and Punjabi translators were the first outsiders they’ve been able to talk to since they were imprisoned weeks ago.