Updates on our Immigration and Detention Work
October 17, 2019 (New York, NY) – Since the start of 2019, the Sikh Coalition has been providing direct resources and advocacy support to Sikhs suffering in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities across the United States. The Sikh Coalition recognizes that immigration is a long-standing and complex issue. Even though we do not provide direct legal services on asylum or immigration cases and immigration policy is not a primary focus area of our work, we are here to make sure impacted community members’ civil rights are protected.
To read more specifics about the Sikh Coalition’s work and the positions we hold on U.S. immigration issues, read our new community FAQ
here. The FAQ was explicitly designed to explain the work that we are doing as an organization and why we are doing it, as well as outline what we say about related issues.
In recent years, the United States has seen an influx of migrants and asylum-seekers from India, including Punjab. In turn, the wider crisis concerning the draconian and indefinite detention of these and other people--and the impact it’s having on Sikh community members--has intensified. As a result, we have been compelled to conduct work in this space in response to the civil rights violations and human rights abuses occurring in U.S. detention facilities.
“Access to due process, religious accommodations, medical care, and language assistance is not an immigration issue; it’s a basic human rights issue,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney Cindy Nesbit. “Our government has a responsibility to make sure that every person being detained is treated fairly under the law, and we have an organizational responsibility to hold our government accountable.”
In the wake of the February detention center hunger strike by Sikh detainees in Texas, we filed a formal complaint
with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General and ICE in April. We followed that complaint up by supporting a civil rights briefing on Capitol Hill
demanding further transparency and oversight into the treatment of Sikh detainees. In July, the Sikh Coalition also led out on a letter
signed by 36 civil rights organizations and delivered to more than 60 congressional offices, which reiterated our ongoing concerns about the mistreatment and deprivation of due process rights of migrants and asylum seekers being held in ICE custody.
In a related effort, the Sikh Coalition has also been working with ICE officials to improve Punjabi language access resources for Sikh detainees, while also better equipping chaplains who serve ICE facilities with the necessary information and resources about the Sikh faith to better protect religious rights inside detention facilities. This work remains ongoing, and we expect to have more updates to share soon.
The Sikh Coalition continues to strongly encourage you to share Know Your Rights resources
with your sangat. These are the resources that we have collected and disseminated from organizations that can provide expert information and legal counsel to Sikhs as they navigate the complex immigration system. You can also read more about all of our immigration and detention-related work on our website
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.