There has been an unprecedented surge in Indian immigrants entering the United States through its southern border, as per a recent release of federal statistics by the US Customs and Border Protection. Over the past year, a staggering 42,000 Indian immigrants were intercepted, marking a significant increase from the previous year when the number was already at a record high.
Furthermore, the data reveals that an additional 1,600 individuals have made their way into the US from the northern border. This figure is four times higher than the cumulative total of the past three years, underlining the growing phenomenon of Indian immigration to the United States.
In a significant development, it has been reported that nearly all Indian immigrants crossing the US southern border voluntarily surrender themselves to the Border Patrol. Subsequently, they are processed as asylum-seekers, a situation attributed to the recent unrest surrounding India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Historical data indicates that since 2007, the annual number of illegal border crossings from India only surpassed 5,000 on four occasions. However, a multitude of factors, including political and socioeconomic reasons, has led to a substantial increase in these numbers. This surge has also been observed across various demographic groups.
According to figures released by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the total encounters along the border in the past year exceeded 2 million, with migrants from India constituting just under 2 per cent of this sample set. This total, pertaining to the fiscal year starting last October, includes approximately 210,000 apprehensions in the last month alone, marking the highest monthly record in 2023.
This unprecedented monthly figure has propelled the total number of migrant encounters for the fiscal year to 2.48 million, a historic high, surpassing the previous record of 2.38 million set in 2022.
The increase in asylum-seekers, such as Arshdeep Singh, a 23-year-old Sikh supporter from Punjab, has contributed to this surge. Singh, who shared his journey with The Wall Street Journal, revealed that he spent 40 days migrating to the US during the summer.
Instead of attempting to evade capture, Singh voluntarily turned himself in to request asylum, a plea that was granted before he reached Fresno in Southern California. He recounted threats from individuals he believed were affiliated with India’s ruling Hindu-centred party, which forced his father to arrange his departure. Singh’s story highlights the perilous journey many asylum-seekers undertake, adding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.
The surge in Indian migrants making their way to the US has been further propelled by success stories shared on social media platforms. These narratives, coupled with Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu-first policies, have intensified the trend, as reported by Daily Mail.
Videos frequently emerge, showcasing men and women of Indian origin illegally entering the US along the southern border. In one such video recorded last month, over a dozen men, seemingly Indian, were captured entering the US illegally, chanting Hindu religious slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Bajrang Bali.’
In a recent video captured deep within the jungles of Panama, a procession of individuals, presumably of Indian origin, was seen navigating the treacherous Darien Gap, a rugged stretch along the Colombia-Panama border that takes days to traverse.
Previously, this crossing was deemed extremely perilous, dissuading most from attempting it. However, amidst the ongoing migrant crisis, a growing number of migrants, including Indians, now brave this dense jungle to find their way through Mexico.
The Darien Gap, encompassing 66 roadless miles of thick, mountainous jungle and swamp, infested with armed guerrillas and drug traffickers in Panama, has witnessed a sharp rise in crossings. It is estimated that the number of people attempting this route could approach 500,000 this year alone.
This migratory route, akin to the extensive freight train networks weaving through Mexico, is one of several methods exploited by various groups, including Indians. Among them are smugglers who pose as travel agents, facilitating access to the US, and these attempts do not solely originate from the South.
In a tragic incident last April, four Indians met a fatal end near the US-Canada border when their boat capsized during an illegal crossing attempt. Similarly, in January of the previous year, four Indians succumbed to freezing temperatures in Canada’s Manitoba, near the US border.
In another incident that unfolded in April, American officials rescued six Indians from the Saint Regis River after a report about a sinking boat near the southern border. Fortunately, all aboard were saved, underscoring the perilous nature of these journeys. Furthermore, in August of the same year, authorities apprehended seven more Indians attempting to cross into the US from Quebec, highlighting the persistence of such endeavours despite the risks involved.