India nationals, a group not thought of posing a problem for the U.S. border patrol, are being detained at increasing numbers in El Centro, California. Of the nine sectors the U.S.-Mexican border is divided into, El Centro is the smallest. Its territory is only 70 miles, just west of the Arizona-California border.  This is the area to which the India nationals flock.

The group presents a new problem for the border patrol agents. While most agents speak Spanish, the same is not said of Punjabi, the Indian native language.

“It’s a common misconception that we just arrest Mexicans – that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said El Centro agent Justin Casterhone. “We arrest people from all over the world.”

Unable to obtain H1b visas, which are given to highly skilled workers, because of a crackdown on the visas by the Trump administration, and because of a fear that Sikhs are coming under attack by fundamentalist groups in their country, Indians are heading to the U.S. — illegally — in droves.

Casterhone went on to say, “When trying to communicate, we are gonna have to get the interpreter to get the entire story.”

So, what kind of numbers are we talking about you might ask? Let’s look at a 10 year period, from 2008 to 2018. In 2008, the number of Indians was 0, with the number slowly building (in single digits) until 2014 when the number went to 32. A drop came in 2015, with the number recorded was down to 6. Then the craziness began. In 2016, the number escalated to 1,455. In 2017, 2018 and in 2018 3408 so far.

Compare the Indian detention numbers at that station to the number of Mexicans and you see the opposite. The number of Mexicans entering illegally drops. In 2008 it was 40,159 and by 2016 (when the number so markedly increased for Indians), the number is at 14361. In 2017 the number goes down to 12,821 but in 2018, so far, the number has risen to 15,885.

Perhaps the numbers of those running to the border in 2016 was due to the election of a new U.S. president. Perhaps those folks trying to be illegal aliens living in America didn’t understand that President Trump’s anti-illegal immigration agenda was more than just a campaign promise. He meant every word of it. Let’s blame it on the lack of H1b visas being given.

Unable to obtain H1b visas, which are given to highly skilled workers, because of a crackdown on the visas by the Trump administration, and because of a fear that Sikhs are coming under attack by fundamentalist groups in their country, Indians are heading to the U.S. — illegally — in droves.

Some Indians are trying to sneak in and claim persecution at home when they are caught. The Sikhs, mostly young men, claim victimhood at the hands of political or religious persecution.

Agents said they arrest roughly five to 10 Indian nationals a day, with most young men claiming asylum as victims of political or religious persecution. Women, who often belong to a lower class in India’s stratified caste system, claim abuse or fear of retribution from families in a higher social class.

“When someone marries beneath their caste, or above their caste, the parents generally get really angry about it and can subject the couple to honor killing,” said immigration attorney Judith Wood, who has represented and won a number of asylum claims on behalf of Indian nationals.”

It is quite a daunting journey to the U.S. border for the native Indians. Like with others trying to illegally enter America, the Indians know how to work the system. 

“Some of these organizations are charging Indian nationals up to $25,000 dollars to get smuggled into the U.S.,” said El Centro Sector Chief Gloria Chavez. “These traffickers, they are winning on this. Law enforcement is not.”

Chavez said Indians generally fly to Qatar then Ecuador, then travel on foot or by bus through the jungles of Colombia and Panama, through Central America and Mexico to El Centro. Most know to travel without any documents verifying their identity.

“Many use their lack of identification to claim to be one person in Mexico and another one in the United States,” she said. “In Mexico, they claim to be an adult because unaccompanied minors under 18 are arrested. In the U.S., the opposite is true. Here, they claim to be juveniles so they must be released.”

I’ll end with this tweet from the new Border Patrol Chief, Carla Provost, the first woman to lead the agency. And wish her good luck.