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The Sikh Coalition News
August 9, 2022
  • Sikh Coalition Responds to Abuse of Sikh Asylum-Seekers, Dastaars by Border Control

    August 9, 2022 (Yuma, AZ) -- Late last week, reports emerged alleging that officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol were seizing and throwing away the dastaars of, and otherwise abusing, Sikh asylum-seekers.

    Last Friday, the Sikh Coalition sent a letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas calling for an immediate end to this practice, a full investigation, and greater respect and dignity for these individuals (some of whom were suffering other abusive behavior, including being denied vegetarian meals). We have since sent follow-up communications to the White House and key congressional leaders to learn more and ensure accountability.

    “We are currently engaging senior leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other officials in the Biden Administration and members of Congress in key committee posts, to understand why this known, abhorrent conduct has been tolerated for so long and what is being done to stop it,” said Sim J. Singh Attariwala, Sikh Coalition Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager. “How we treat Sikhs at the border, who are primarily escaping religious persecution from India, is not just a policy or political issue--it reflects who we are as a nation.”

    “For more than 20 years, the Sikh Coalition has been at the forefront of protecting religious rights--including the right of Sikhs to maintain their dastaars and other articles of faith,” continued Giselle Klapper, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “Those rights must fully apply to all Sikhs, whether they are employed in hospitality, trucking, public transportation, the military, medical professions, other fields, or at the border. We refuse to allow this illegal policy to continue.”

    We are grateful to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the International Rescue Committee’s Phoenix Welcome Center for bringing these accusations to light, and we look forward to working with them, as well as other partners in the civil rights movement and government officials, to address this urgent issue. We remain consistently in touch with the White House and DHS on this critical matter and will provide more updates from those discussions when appropriate.

    As a reminder, the Sikh Coalition does not take individual immigration or asylum cases. However, we have previously worked to ensure the respect of civil and human rights of Sikh detainees in ICE facilities. Additionally, last year, our legal team--working in partnership with Stanford Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic, Harvard Law School’s Religious Freedom Clinic, and community experts--produced a new resource to provide practical guidance to individuals navigating the asylum process as well as context into the plight Sikh asylum seekers face in India. If you have questions about our immigration and detention work, be sure to review our community FAQ and know-your-rights resources.

    As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.

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Editing:2022.08.09 border patrol dastaars 1 Editing:2022.08.09 border patrol dastaars 1  

Editing:2022.08.09 border patrol dastaars 1 Editing:2022.08.09 border patrol dastaars 1