As many as 123 immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been detained and transferred to a prison in Oregon over the last month, non-governmental organisation Asia Pacific American Network of Oregon said on Monday.
At least 70 of the people separated from their families and detained in Sheridan are South Asians, lawyer-activist Valarie Kaur said on Twitter. Fifty-two of them are from India, 13 from Nepal and two are from Bangladesh, Kaur said.
“The majority of the 123 people in the Sheridan prison are South Asian, who speak primarily Hindi and Punjabi, and a few identified as Chinese,” the organisation said, adding that many of them are Sikhs and Christians fleeing persecution.
Adults found entering the US illegally are being prosecuted by the Department of Homeland Security while children are being held away from their parents as unaccompanied minors by the Health and Human Services. According to US law, if parents are jailed, their children are not allowed to stay with them because they have not been charged with a crime.
Criticising the policy, the NGO said: “These detainees are isolated, have limited access to interpretation, and are at-risk of abuse in their current prison housing arrangement.” It added that the methods were “cruel and inhumane”.
“The damage caused by this policy – children in makeshift shelters, overflowing detention centers, and human rights violations – represent a humanitarian crisis that has now hit Oregonians in our backyard,” the organisation added.