A record number of Indians are entering the US illegally from the US-Mexico border to seek asylum with a combination of factors contributing to a significant jump in their numbers, according to a media report.
The Wall Street Journal cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Hindu nationalist policies” and success stories from those who have made the trip among factors driving the surge.
There has also been an influx of smugglers masquerading as travel agents across villages, especially in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, according to the Journal.
Roughly 42,000 migrants from India have crossed the southern border illegally during the fiscal year starting last October through September, according to data compiled by US Customs and Border Protection.
That is more than double the number from the same period the prior year, when crossings by Indians hit a historic high, the Journal noted.
An additional 1,600 have crossed from the northern border illegally — four times the number who crossed in the last three years combined.
Since 2007, the total number of illegal border crossings by Indians in a fiscal year has exceeded 5,000 only four times, the Journal noted.
Indians nearly all turn themselves into Border Patrol, rather than being arrested while evading capture, because they want to ask for asylum in the US, according to the Journal.
Overall, arrests for illegal border crossings surpassed two million at the end of the 2023 fiscal year, making it only the second time they have crossed that mark. The first time was in 2022.
Mexico deports 311 Indians, who were trying to enter US illegally (October 19, 2019)
“It really is pointing to this huge trend of mass migration worldwide,” Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh, an analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, was quoted as saying by the Journal.
“We’re seeing that people from other countries are making their way to the US border, when traditionally they haven’t.”
Administration officials cited by the Journal say migration from India and other countries outside the Western Hemisphere has made it more difficult to stem the flow of illegal entries at the US border.
Legal pathways for Indians entering the US also are straining under heavy demand, it noted. In the past, some immigrants from India entered on a tourist visa and overstayed it rather than make the journey to the southern border to seek asylum.
But wait times for those visas have exceeded two years. Indians also face a longer wait time than immigrants of any other nationality to get a green card in the US, according to government data cited by the Journal.
Hundreds of Indians brave untold danger chasing the American dream (November 29, 2019)
Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration lawyer told the Journal he is seeing an increasing number of political and religious persecution asylum cases from India, especially from the Sikh community. Modi’s handling of a yearlong protest by Sikh farmers contributed to discontent within the community.
Many Indian migrants are also coming to the US for economic reasons, which don’t qualify them for asylum, saying in videos posted on social media and in interviews after being deported back that the lack of well-paying jobs made them desperate to leave, the Journal reported.
In many cases, they sell everything they own to pay smugglers, who now operate on a much more global and professionalized scale across the world.
Roughly 80% of the migrants from India are single adults, and most are coming through Arizona after taking what are coming to be known as “donkey flights” via countries that don’t require visas for Indian nationals or that have an easier process for obtaining travel visas.
A coming Bollywood movie, titled “Dunki,” which will feature India’s biggest movie star, Shah Rukh Khan, centers on this illegal method of immigration.
Five Indian asylum seekers on hunger strike for 90 days in Louisiana (January 29, 2020)
Some have died during the journey, including Gurupreet Kaur, a 6-year-old girl from Punjab who perished in the Arizona desert in 2019. Two sets of families of four from Gujarat also died crossing the northern border in the past two years.
Nonprofits in border communities in Arizona that help migrants are having to adapt to the uptick in Indian migrants, the Journal said.
Diego Piña Lopez, director of Casa Alitas, said 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 was quoted as saying. “Now we are seeing people from India almost every day.”
There are about 2.6 million pending cases in the US immigration court system, according to government data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, cited by the Journal.
Asylum seekers in the US rise to the highest level in 20 years (December 19, 2013)
2,318%: the increase in asylum seekers from India to the US in last 3 years (September 10, 2013)
Drastic increase in August in number of children entering the US illegally (September 21, 2015)