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South Texas Seeing Spike in Undocumented South Asians

February 7, 2011

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that South Texas is the terminus of an underground railroad of human trafficking that stretches from Punjab to Mexico. According to the paper, court documents are filling with these cases and officials are at a loss to explain the phenomenon.

The immigrants, mostly young men from poor villages, say they are fleeing religious and political persecution. More than 1,600 Indians have been caught since the influx began here early last year, while an undetermined number, perhaps thousands, are believed to have sneaked through undetected, according to U.S. border authorities.

In 2009, only 99 South Asians were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE“) along the long U.S. border with Mexico. Since the beginning of 2010, however, more than 1,600 undocumented South Asians found their way into ICE custody along the border. ICE calls this the “most significant” human smuggling trend being tracked by the agency.

ICE is especially concerned about the possibility that some of these immigrants include radicalized elements. “It’s a dramatic increase,” Kumar Kibble, deputy director of ICE, said. “We do want to monitor these pipelines and shut them down because it is a vulnerability. They could either knowingly or unknowingly smuggle people into the U.S. that pose a national security threat.”

According to the Economic Times, ICE detained more than 650 South Asians in the 4th Quarter of 2010 alone. Despite this, the agency says “an undetermined number, perhaps thousands (of Indian immigrants) are believed to have sneaked through undetected.” South Asians are second only to Latinos in terms of undocumented persons detained along the Mexican border, according to ICE.

According to ICE’s report, “the immigrants, mostly young men from poor villages, say they are fleeing religious and political persecution,” in the Indian states of Punjab or Gujarat and have “common surnames” like Patel and Singh.

Update: If you’d like to help, local legal aid needs translators.

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