In what is increasingly being seen as a strange phenomenon, a reportedly large number from people are seeking asylum in the US from India. To those unfamiliar with the system of seeking asylum, it is a process that allows a foreign national to seek refuge in a state showing that circumstances within their own country are no favorable for them to stay in that country. Seeking asylum in a country is an extreme step that is usually applicable under severe or extraordinary circumstances. There is a of course a difference between refugees and those seeking asylum (though the difference is subtle). People who are outside the US must apply for refugee status while those who have already made it to the United States (usually by entering illegally) apply for an asylum status.
Why the seeking of a large number of Indians seeking asylum is a reason to worry as well as be cautious and suspicious is because of the circumstances under which a person can seek asylum. The US law states that you must meet strict requirements, to see asylum. These are:

You are unable or unwilling to return to your native country because you face persecution there or have been persecuted there in the past and have a well-founded fear of the same if you go back.
The second rule, which could be more worrying in this case, states that –‘The reason you have been (or will be) persecuted is connected to one of five things: your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or your political opinion.’

According to a TOI report ‘The United states has seen a mysterious surge of asylum seekers from India entering America illegally through the southwestern desert state of Arizona bordering Mexico.’

What is even more astonishing is that an investigative report from the Arizona Republic published in Phoenix says that thousands, of Indians have over the past year asked for asylum claiming to fear they may be persecuted if returned to their country. This, in spite of the fact that India has not seen any political turmoil in the recent past year of great consequence that may give rise to such a feeling or speculation in the minds of the people.

The report further elaborates that many of these Indians have arrived in this border after paying as much as $35,000. They have been smuggled halfway across the globe, flying from India to Central America and then embarking on tedious and difficult, even dangerous journey of some 3,000-miles. There are many who are simply turning themselves in at the legal border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, seeking asylum based on claims of political persecution in their own country.

The US daily also reported that many have successfully passed the US immigration asylum officer’s interview of ‘credible fear’ which is done on those seeking asylum to establish ‘real fear’ in them of returning to their native country.

What remains unclear however, is whether those asking for asylum are legitimately fleeing persecution and if at all they intend to show up for their asylum hearings. This based on the statistics from the fiscal year 2012 reports which show that nearly 10 percent of Indian asylum seekers had failed to show up for their final asylum hearings in US immigration courts.

While officials have refused to provide statistics for the number of Indians who have asked for asylum in Arizona, a US State Department spokesperson Nicole Thompson was quoted as saying that ‘she is unaware of any mass conflict in India that would be contributing to an increase in asylum seekers from India. But India is a complicated country with a great degree of variance internally as far as the standard of living and income’.

The question then remains unanswered, why are so many Indians seeking asylum in the US, is asylum the new more popular way of legitimately getting into the US or is there something that they are really afraid of?


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Shah Peerally is an attorney licensed in California practicing immigration law and debt settlement. He has featured as an expert legal analyst for many TV networks such as NDTV, Times Now and Sitarree TV. Articles about Shah Peerally and his work have appeared on newspapers such as San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, US Fiji Times, Mauritius Le Quotidien, Movers & Shakers and other prominent international newspapers. His work has been commended by Congress women Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee. He has a weekly radio show on KLOK 1170AM and frequently participates in legal clinics in churches, temples and mosques. His law group, Shah Peerally Law Group, has represented clients all over the United States constantly dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Custom Enforcement(ICE) and CBP (Customs Border Patrol (CBP) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This department was formerly known as the Immigration and Nationality Services (INS).