85 Asylum-Seeking South Asian Men ‘#Deported2Death’

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85 Asylum-Seeking South Asian Men ‘#Deported2Death’

Tina Vasquez

Some of the deported men, a bulk of whom are Muslim, are from the same group who participated in the #FreedomGiving hunger strike, a nationwide protest action that began the day before Thanksgiving at various detention centers nationwide.

Advocates on Friday will hold “a symbolic funeral” in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York, in honor of 85 asylum-seeking immigrants of Indian, Bangladeshi, and Nepali origin who were deported April 4.

Some of the deported men, a bulk of whom are Muslim, are from the same group who participated in the #FreedomGiving hunger strike, a protest action that began the day before Thanksgiving at various detention centers nationwide, as Rewire reported last week.

It was believed immigration authorities, working with the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, had transferred detained South Asian asylum seekers to a detention center in Florence, Arizona, in preparation for a mass deportation—one advocates said could result in life-threatening danger for the deported.

This is true for Punjabi Sikhs from India and Bangladeshis associated with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, both considered vulnerable populations who have been threatened with violence in their countries of origin, according to a press release from Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a New York-based organization of South Asian low-wage immigrant workers and youth.

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Advocates have drawn attention to the cases of these asylum seekers using the #Deported2Death hashtag.

DRUM executive director Fahd Ahmed received a call from a detainee at Florence Correctional Center reporting South Asian men were being loaded onto buses in the middle of the night, according to a DRUM press release. On April 4, members of DRUM checked the detainee tracker at Florence and the asylum seekers in question were listed as “no longer in custody,” a status associated with being deported or released.

Rewire this week was able to confirm the deportations with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official authorized to speak to the media.

In an emailed statement, the official said that on April 3, “85 individuals who had been ordered removed from the U.S. by an immigration judge were transferred to a chartered aircraft at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Air Operations Coordination Center in Mesa, Arizona, for repatriation to Southeast [South] Asia.”

The statement said the “repatriation flight” took place April 4, was coordinated by ICE Air Operations, and included people from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.

“All of those on last weekend’s flight had been provided the opportunity to present their cases in immigration court, were issued final orders of removal, and had no outstanding stays that would prohibit their removal,” the statement continued. “The Department of Homeland Security has made it clear that individuals who come to the U.S. illegally and do not qualify for asylum or other legal relief are priorities for enforcement, and will be repatriated consistent with our nation’s laws and values.”