Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Border Patrol Agents Are Trashing Sikh Asylum-Seekers’ Turbans

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John Washington reports in The Intercept:

Gurjodh Singh was leaning against a rusted vehicle barrier — planted like a giant jack in the sand — at the end of the line of migrants. It is late July, and about 400 people seeking asylum are waiting alongside a gap in the border fence as dawn breaks over the sky in southern Arizona.

Singh is 22, fleeing India for America, without any family, to seek political asylum. Slipping off the vehicle barrier, he joined a huddle of five other Indian men, all Sikhs from the state of Punjab. A Border Patrol agent told Singh he had to move to the back of the line because he didn’t have papers. The rest of the men recovered their IDs after being robbed on a grueling monthslong trek across the jungles of Panama, but Singh still has no ID.

As the minutes tick by, the sky brightens, and the temperature notches steadily upward, reaching above 110 degrees that day. The men are waiting for the agents to begin their processing and load them onto buses heading to a nearby Border Patrol station.

Word has begun circulating among those seeking asylum in the Yuma area: Border Patrol is forcing everyone to throw away all personal belongings, except for cellphones, wallets, and travel documents. Agents are demanding Sikh men remove their turbans and are dumping the sacred religious garb in the trash.

Bhupinder, an 18-year-old Sikh man wearing a purple turban, said, simply, “I can’t take it off.” An important expression of Sikh men’s faith is not cutting their hair, and covering their head with a turban.

The forced removal and confiscation of turbans violates Border Patrol policies that are meant to respect religious freedom. It also violates policies that require agents to track and return personal belongings.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sent a letter to Border Patrol documenting dozens of cases of agents confiscating and discarding turbans, explaining the significance of the item, and how the actions “blatantly violate federal law,” Border Patrol policy, and protections of religious freedom.

A month earlier, a third Sikh man seeking asylum said Border Patrol ordered him to turn over his belongings — including two sacred symbols of his faith.

“They told me to take off my turban. I know a little English, and I said, ‘It’s my religion.’ But they insisted,” the man said, speaking through an interpreter in a July phone interview.

The man pleaded with the officers, who forced him to remove his turban and tossed it in a trash pile. He asked if he could at least keep his turban for when he was released from custody. They told him no. “I felt so bad,” he said.

The Border Patrol’s Yuma sector did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In addition to keeping uncut hair, maintained in a head covering, Sikhs, according to their faith, carry a comb; wear a bracelet; wear custom cotton underwear; and carry a small, curved sword or knife.

Border Patrol agents also cut a ribbon that was holding up the third asylum-seeker’s traditional Sikh underwear. Since there is no elastic on them, he was unable to continue wearing them.

“They said it was to prevent suicide,” he said, “but you can use pajamas to commit suicide if you want to. You can use socks. This underwear is important to us.”

Violating Policy [and human rights – LG]

Despite complaints that Border Patrol agents are violating their own policies that say they must “safeguard” personal property not deemed to be contraband or dangerous and “should remain cognizant of an individual’s religious beliefs,” Yuma’s Border Patrol has confiscated at least 64 turbans this year, according to the ACLU of Arizona and the Phoenix Welcome Center. In just the last two months, the organizations have documented at least 50 such confiscations.

The turban confiscations have ramped up in recent months, said Maria Jose Pinzon, a program manager for Phoenix Welcome Center, which is run by the International Rescue Committee that offers a few nights of rest and humanitarian assistance to asylum-seekers.

Because the Welcome Center is only able to record self-reported cases, and many asylum-seekers are scared to register a complaint, Pinzon is confident the number is much higher.

In June, according to Pinzon, a Department of Homeland Security ombudsman visited the Phoenix Welcome Center, promising to address the issue with Border Patrol. Yet the confiscations continued, with at least 11 documented cases as of July 20. Homeland Security’s Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman did not respond to requests for comment.

There are currently no regulations that require Border Patrol to document and publicly report the number of people its agents removed turbans from in violation of their own policy. . .

Continue reading.

The only way to fix this, I fear, is to complete replace current US Border Patrol Personnel.

The following post provides some insight into what happens to Border Patrol agents to make them that way.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2022 at 12:51 pm

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