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World

‘Religious Persecution’, ‘Lack of Jobs’: A Record Number of Indians Are Illegally Crossing the US Border

Nearly 42,000 migrants from India have crossed the southern border illegally during the fiscal year starting last October through September – more than double the number from the same period the previous year, reported WSJ.

New Delhi: Nearly 42,000 migrants from India have crossed the southern border illegally during the fiscal year starting last October through September, the Wall Street Journal has reported, citing data compiled by US Customs and Border Protection.

According to the report, that is more than double the number from the same period the previous year, when the number of Indians crossing the US border illegally hit a historic high.

From October 2021 to September 2022, US border authorities stopped Indian migrants “18,300 times” at the US southern border, DW had reported, citing the Migration Policy Institute’s 2022 report. In the previous year, 2,600 such encounters were recorded by the US authorities, the report said.

In September alone, 8,076 Indians were arrested by US’s law enforcement agencies when they tried to enter the country illegally through various routes. Of the total, 3,059 Indians were arrested from the US-Canada border alone, data from the US Customs and Border Protection showed.

Since 2007, the total number of illegal border crossings by Indians in a fiscal year has exceeded 5,000 only four times. Indians nearly all turn themselves in to Border Patrol, rather than being arrested while evading capture, because they want to ask for asylum in the US, WSJ reported.

Roughly 80% of the migrants from India are single adults, the report said. Most of them come through Arizona after taking “donkey flights” via countries that don’t require visas for Indian nationals, or that have an easier process for obtaining travel visas, it added.

An upcoming Bollywood film, Dunki, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, and starring Shah Rukh Khan, is based on these “donkey flights”, which are used for illegal immigration to the US.

The report highlighted the increasing number of Indian migrants illegally crossing the US.

Diego Piña Lopez, director of Casa Alitas, a nonprofit that helps migrants, told WSJ that his shelter has had to rethink dietary restrictions and consider religious and cultural differences, given the large number of Indian migrants they are now seeing.

“It used to be an annual thing that in the summers we would see small pockets of people coming from India,” he said. “Now we are seeing people from India almost every day.”

Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration lawyer who is representing Arshdeep Singh, who was compelled to leave India after he was threatened by men allegedly affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party, told WSJ that he’s seeing an increasing number of political and religious persecution asylum cases from India, with a notable rise within the Sikh community.

Another reason for Indians illegally migrating to the US is a “lack of economic opportunities” in their own country, the report noted.