Surge in asylum seekers from India.
A split Ninth Circuit panel has denied an asylum petition by a Sikh man from Punjab, India, Tara Singh, who claimed that the erstwhile extremist group Bhindranwale Tiger Force (BTF) – who fought for Khalistan â€“ had tried to assassinate him.
The panel, while agreeing that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) erred in concluding that Singh was not the victim of persecution in the past â€“ deemed that there is â€œsubstantial evidenceâ€ to support an immigration judgeâ€™s determination that situations in India have improved in recent years, reported Law360.
The panel noted that the BTF has largely disbanded, that Sikh militancy has subsided and that the country has elected a Sikh prime minister, in Dr. Manmohan Singh.
â€œThe BIA properly found that Singhâ€™s three voluntary return trips to India without incident to attend public gatherings further undermines his claim of a well-founded fear of future persecution at the hands of the BTF,â€ the panelâ€™s memorandum reads.
Last year, in April, the Fifth Circuit had similarly denied a review petition by an asylum seeker from Punjab, Law360 reported. Hardeep Singhâ€™s petition was dismissed on the grounds that he could move to another part of India, to avoid persecution that he claimed he would face.
Singh had argued that if he were deported to India he would face persecution and torture related to his religious and political beliefs.
Asylum seekers from Punjab have for long used alleged persecution by India as a means to settle in the US, since the 1980s and the 1990s. In April 2014, 44 illegal immigrants from Punjab were caught trying to cross the border from Mexico, and detained at the El Paso Detention Center.
Asylum seekers from India, especially from Punjab, have increased in the last two years, according to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Times of India reported on Monday that the number of Indians seeking asylum has increased four times in three years, and there is marginal increase in the number of women applicants. It is generally men who make the treacherous journey with the help of human traffickers from Moscow into South America, and from there into the US through the Mexican border, paying around $35,000 per individual.
While the latest asylum numbers are not known, in 2011, almost 2,000 individuals from India sought asylum in the US, based on alleged persecution claims. In 2012, there was a sharp downturn in those numbers, with less than 500 individuals seeking asylum, but in 2013, it was back to around 2,000, according to the Department of Homeland Security.