India News

Indians detained in Oregon to get legal access: US judge

New Delhi-In what could provide much-needed relief to 123 immigrants, including 52 Indians detained in a federal prison in Portland, Oregon, a US Judge has ordered access to legal aid be provided to them.
Citing The Portland Mercury, news agency PTI today said that an Oregon federal judge has granted the detained immigrants being held in a Sheridan prison immediate access to legal aid by allowing attorneys to meet them.
In an exclusive report on June 21, The Tribune had highlighted the ‘inhuman conditions’ in which these illegal immigrants have been kept in detention since mid-May with the largest group belonging to Indians, mostly from Punjab.
Read — 52 Indians detained in ‘inhuman conditions’ in Oregon in US: Activists
The Tribune reported that some three men were bunked in a small cell for more than 22 hours a day in Sheridan, made to wear shackles and forced to eat food in cells next to open toilets.
These 52 Indian men have no idea about where their separated families maybe, while two men who were shot at were denied medical care.
US District Judge Michael Simon has now granted an emergency order sought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Innovation Law Lab, a nonprofit whose attorneys have been denied access to immigrants at the Sheridan, said the PTI.
“Because we are a nation that lives under law, the right to legal counsel is a right that has been recognised as required,” Judge Simon reportedly said.
The ACLU of Oregon filed a lawsuit on Friday arguing the federal government is violating the constitutional rights of these detainees.
Following the Trump administration’s widely criticised crackdown on illegal immigration that included separating young children from families, nearly 100 Indians are detained for illegally entering the country through its southern border. Trump last week reversed his order under pressure.
According to US officials, 40-45 Indians are at a federal detention centre in the Southern American State of New Mexico while 52 Indians, mostly Sikhs and Christians, are held in Oregon.
An official from the Consulate General of India in San Francisco established consular access to those detained last week. But for the Indian government the issue is complicated as these men are seeking asylum in the United States on grounds of alleged ‘religious persecution’ back home.
“The detainees have culturally specific needs that are not being met — including translation services, legal assistance, and religious services. Isolating them from these resources is both illegal and inhumane. They have rights as asylum seekers that are being neglected. Seeking asylum is not a crime,” Jai Singh, Field Organiser of social justice non-profit organisation APANO told Tribune from Portland.