Illegal immigration thrives despite deaths and hardships

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From November 2022 to September 2023, a record number of Indians 96,917 were arrested while crossing illegally into the USA, according to the latest US Customs and Border Protection (UCBP) data.

The number of Indians trying to enter the USA has witnessed five fold rise since 2019, suggesting that increasing numbers of people are trying to enter the USA despite all hardships and even several instances of deaths of people while trying to cross the border.

Shockingly, as many as 45,000 Indians who have been apprehended while trying to sneak into the USA via southern border have told the US authorities that “they have fear in their country” and therefore were desperate leave from their country and get into USA.

According to Senator James Lankford, there are criminal cartels involved in human trafficking in Mexico are coaching illegal migrants from all over the world on what to say and where to go in order to “game” the asylum process and get into the country while they await an asylum hearing.

“So far this year we’ve had 45,000 people from India that have crossed our southern border, paid the cartels, crossed into our country, and said they have fear in their country from India,” Senator Lankford told on the floor of the US Senate on Thursday after the UCBP data were released.

As per the data, of the 96,917 Indians arrested between October 2022 and September this year, 30,010 were caught on the Canadian border and 41,770 at the frontier with Mexico.

An year wise break-up of the numbers of those arrested or apprehended suggest the trend of increasing number of people in desperation to leave the country and cross into USA in whatever way possible.

In 2019-20, 19,883 Indians were apprehended. In 2020-21, 30,662 Indians were arrested while in 2021-22 this number was 63,927, according to the data.

In the US, those arrested are classified under four categories – Accompanied Minors (AM), Individuals in a Family Unit (FMUA), Single Adults, and Unaccompanied Children (UC).

Single adults make up the largest category. In fiscal year 2023, 84,000 Indian adults crossed into the U.S. illegally. 730 unaccompanied minors were among the arrested people.

Though the US authorities don’t provide the state wise figures of people coming from India but according to local officials including Police and other agencies, highest number of people are from states like Gujarat and Punjab, both states have emerged as the hub of illegal migration to USA and Canada in recent years.

“Probably, Gujarat will have the highest number followed by Punjab,” a senior Police official said, adding that agents in the state have established their network to smuggle people via different routes.

The influx of illegal immigrants from states like Gujarat persists or have increased despite devastating events in which families died while attempting the crossing through these dangerous trips.

In January 2022, a Gujarati family of four was found dead ten metres from the US-Canada border, as the couple and their two children were caught in blizzard conditions and frozen to death.

In a similar tragedy in April this year, a plan to enter the US illegally by another Gujarati family of four had ended tragically in the St. Lawrence River when their boat sank. The Chaudhary family who died included a couple and their two adult children.

In the same month, the US officials had managed to save six Indians from the Saint Regis River when their boat was sinking.

In January this year, nine Gujaratis who had left from the state for the USA through Ahmedabad based human trafficking agents were arrested and their whereabouts are unclear even today.

The families of those eight persons have filed FIRs and even a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Gujarat High Court about their whereabouts.

The High Court directed the Ministry of External Affairs to coordinate with authorities in the Caribbean islands to trace the whereabouts of nine people from north Gujarat who have gone missing since the last week of January when they left for USA.

According to their families, the missing people had left Gujarat to illegally enter the United States. Those missing have been identified as: Ankit Patel, Kiran Patel, Avani Patel, Sudhir Patel, Pratik Patel, Nikhil Patel, Champa Vasava, Dhruvrajsinh Vaghela and Bharat Rabari.

Since the death of four members of a Gujarati family at US Canada borders, over a dozen FIRs have been filed at various districts against agents who tried to lure those who wanted to leave and go to USA or Canada.

The Police have made arrests also, but the cases are never pursued to their logical conclusions and as a result, the agents get bail within months.

“One of the main reasons is even victim families don’t want to pursue the cases since this is entire illegal from the beginning and all monetary transactions are through cash so it’s difficult to fight a lawsuit,” a Police official said.

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