The South Asian Voice of Austin

In June 2013, more than forty Punjabi men — all of them members of a minority political party — fled India because they feared for their lives. In a journey that zig-zagged around the globe, they finally made it to the United States where they hoped to find safety and freedom. But asylum from the Indian government isn’t what they found here.

Instead, these asylum seekers have been trapped for months in Texas at the El Paso Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center.(1) Despite proving their identities and certifying their reasons for asylum, they have been detained indefinitely by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE), the long arm of Homeland Security.

Now 37 of these unlawfully detained Punjabi men — the El Paso 37 — are on a hunger strike. And they’re not ending the strike until they’re released. We demand that ICE release these asylum seekers immediately.

ICE is legally bound to release detainees as soon as they have proven their true identities and reasons for seeking asylum in the United States.(2) According to John Lawit, a Dallas-based lawyer for some of the detainees in El Paso, “There is zero evidence that any of the detainees are anyone but who they say they are.”(3) No lawful reason exists to explain why these detainees should still be held in detention.

We can’t tell the world that the United States is a nation committed to justice when we turn away those who are most in need of our government’s protection. When did imprisoning asylees for months at a time become the way we “protect” those who flee their home countries out of fear, starvation, or persecution?

We refuse to stand by as ICE and Homeland Security continue to break their own rules and violate human rights. We know that already two hunger strikers have been hospitalized, and many others are in danger. And we’ve also learned that ICE is on the verge of force feeding striking detainees — a practice that the United Nations has called “torture.”

We choose to raise our voices on behalf of those whose voices are being systematically silenced. And we are determined to fight for the release of these unlawfully detained asylum seekers.

Austin South Asian is joined by these community organization allies in the fight for the El Paso 37:

  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
  • Dream Defenders
  • GetEQUAL
  • Korean Resource Center
  • National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
  • Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • United We Dream

If your organization would like to join this campaign, send us an email today!

For more information, please visit


[1] Texas detention facility confirms 37 Punjabi hunger strikers The Hindu, 4/15/2014
[2] Parole of Arriving Aliens Found to Have a Credible Fear of Persecution or Torture U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 1/04/2010
[3] Detainees from India on hunger strike at El Paso ICE Processing CenterEl Paso Times, 4/12/2014


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