Port Isabel Detention Center
Port Isabel Detention Center

Here’s a special report by Kishor Panthi, editor in chief of Khasokhas Weekly, New York based weekly newspaper and the first accredited Nepali journalist by US Department of State.


Detained Dream in US Detention

111 Nepalese in 29 US Detention Centers

  • Kishor Panthi

Dozens of Nepalese illegally cross the U.S. border almost every day, spending more than 50 thousand U.S. dollars. Most of them seek asylum in the USA. According to latest annual report of DHS, Nepal is the third top country of nationality for defensive asylum. The number of Nepalese trying to illegally cross U.S. border has spiked up in years.

Trying to cross the border, some of the Nepalese are caught by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Agents. And from there begins their journey of detention centers. Of these some are released within months and some get deported. The ones who get released are forced to work up to 12 to 14 hours every day to pay their debts off back home. The ones who get deported see their dreams crash down.

 

Nepalese in 29 Detention Centers

Up until the second week of July, most of the Nepalese in jail are still looking forward to their American dream. In the USA, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has 82 detention facilities. Of those 82, 29 hold Nepalese detainees, who wonder how long they have to be in detention. California to Texas to New York, Nepalese are detained with their dreams.

According to Spokesman of ICE Vincent Picard, Nepalese are detained in Adelanto Detention Facility CA, Basile Detention Center LA, Buffalo NY, Central Arizona Detention Center, Florence Correctional Center of Arizona, Corrections Corporation of America– San Diego, Denver Contract Detention Facility, Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, Eloy Federal Contract Detention Facility, Etowah County Jail AL, Houston Contract Detention Facility, ICA Farmville VA, Imperial Regional Adult Detention Facility CA, Irwin County Detention Center GA, James A Musick Facility CA, Lassalle Detention Center LA, Laredo Processing Center TX, Mesa Verde CCF CA, Northwest Detention Center WA, Pike County Jail PA, Port Isabel Detention Center TX, Rolling Plain Detention Center TX, Sherburne County Jail MN, South Texas Detention Complex, Stewart Detention Center GA, Theo Lacy Facility CA, West Texas Detention Facility, Worcester County Jail MD and York County Jail PA.

Vincent Picard, spokesperson of ICE, said, “Nepalese are detained in 29 of our detention centers. These numbers change sometimes depending on the increase of Nepalese being caught and also because they may have to be transferred to another facility. Thus there is possibility of number of detention centers to increase sometimes. But mostly Nepalese are in these 29 detention centers.”

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111 Nepalese in Detention Centers

By second week of July there were 111 Nepalese in those detention centers. Although thousands of Nepalese are rumored to be in jail, from the field investigation and report from ICE, those rumors can be clearly dismissed. Picard says that he has never heard of such rumor and he suggests not to trust on those exaggerated numbers.

Highest numbers of Nepalese are imprisoned in Georgia’s Jail more than they are in any another American detention facility. 23 Nepalese are held in Georgia’s Steward Detention Center. Although most of them are caught in Texas and Arizona, they are handed over to detention center in Georgia. Georgia’s Erwin County Detention Center holds one Nepalese. In total 24 Nepalese are detained in Georgia.

19 of the Nepalese are placed in 6 different detention centers across Texas. According to Port Isabel Detention Center, there used to be 3 to 4 new Nepalese detainees every day being brought to this facility. But since most of them were transferred to other correctional facilities and some get released after paying bond, hence comparably the number of inmates is low. After the earthquake in Nepal only few of the Nepalese are caught.

9 Nepalese are in 6 different detention centers in California. 11 Nepalese are in 2 different jails of Louisiana, most of whom were transferred from Texas. 5 are in South Louisiana Correctional Facility and 6 in Lasalle Detention Facility. Out of 3 detention centers in Arizona, there are 16 Nepalese detainees in total.

 

Seven Have Criminal Charges

7 of the inmates have criminal charges out of 111 Nepalese detainees in the USA. 7 are held under criminal charges and are under the process of deportation. These Nepalese were convicted by the criminal court and after their criminal charges are taken care of; they will be charged by the immigration court and are waiting to be deported.

This is the mandatory process for ICE to deport the criminal convicts. 3 of those detainees were in Virginia’s jail till mid-June. 2 of them have been already deported in July, so now only 1 Nepalese detainee remains in Virginia Jail.

Similarly under criminal charges; 2 are in California’s jail, 1 is in Arizona’s Alloy Federal contract facility, 1 on Atlanta’s jail, 1 in Batavia, New York’s jail, and 1 in Huston, Texas’s jail.

Hope of TPS

On June 24, 2015, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the designation of Nepal for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and that eligible Nepalese nationals residing in the United States may apply for TPS. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson had announced his decision to designate Nepal for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months based on the conditions resulting from the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015 and the subsequent aftershocks. As a result, eligible nationals of Nepal residing in the United States may apply for TPS with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

According to New York based attorney at law Bashu Phulara, Nepalese detainees have started applying for TPS with hope of getting released from detention centers. Some of the Nepalese detainees have been affected by the earthquake that struck Nepal on April. They have lost their loved one and residence. A Nepalese detainee in Port Isabel Detention center, Mr. Adhikary said, “I spent more than 40 thousand dollars to get here. I am here since 7 months. Hopefully because of TPS, I might be released early. Then I can work and pay off my debt. We still have the American dream.”

Attorney at Law Bashu Phulara Said, “We have applied for TPS on behalf of many Nepalese detainees. We have been visiting them into detention centers. We strongly believe they can be released soon, and they still can achieve their hopes of American Dream.’

Report by Kishor Panthi (kishorpanthi@gmail.com)