Asian-American and Muslim-American advocates are concerned about what may happen to a large group of South Asian men from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan who have been facing deportation, including 169 Bangladeshi political asylum seekers and Punjabi Sikh political asylum seekers who had participated in the #FreedomGiving hunger strikes last fall.
On Sunday, 85 men were repatriated to Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Advocates had been using the hashtag #Deported2Death to draw attention to the risk they face if returned to the countries they left, including religious and political persecution, according to activists.
Members of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) told NBC News that late Sunday night a detainee at a Florence, Arizona, detention center had told them that several busloads of South Asian men who had recently been transferred there were removed. By Monday afternoon, DRUM said that many of the asylum seekers were listed as "no longer in custody" on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) detainee tracker, a status associated with either being released or deported. ICE confirmed to NBC News Tuesday that 85 people had been deported Sunday.
"On April 3, 85 individuals who had been ordered removed from the U.S. by an immigration judge were transferred to a chartered aircraft at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Air Operations Coordination Center in Mesa, Arizona, for repatriation to Southeast Asia," an ICE official authorized to speak to the media told NBC News. "The repatriation flight, coordinated by ICE Air Operations, occurred on April 4 and included individuals from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. All of those on last weekend's flight had been provided the opportunity to present their cases in immigration court, were issued final orders of removal, and had no outstanding stays that would prohibit their removal."
On Friday, advocates and former detainees plan to hold a symbolic funeral in New York City for those who have been deported to draw attention to the dangers they face upon repatriation.
"In the last six months, the detainees have been victims to civil rights violations," Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance said in a statement. "We have to keep pressuring the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security in order to halt further deportations. We must see to it that these men find the justice they deserve and continue to fight the mass criminalization of our communities and all people of color."