Gay Indian Couple Held in ICE Prison Get Political Asylum 9

Published: January 2, 2014

As India continues its debate over the criminalization of homosexuality, an Indian gay couple, who were held for six months in ICE detention facilities in El Paso, Texas, received political asylum Dec. 20 based on claims they were persecuted in their home country for their sexual identity.

 
Jagdish Kumar and Sukhwinder Sukhwinder left India in June 2012 and travelled by various means for a year through Dubai, Cyprus and several South and Central American countries before arriving on foot from Mexico at the Texas border. The two had no visas, but immediately applied for political asylum at the border and were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
 
“They fled India because they were afraid of violence. They imagined the U.S. to be a welcoming country. Unfortunately, they were detained as soon as they arrived,” Clement Lee, a staff attorney with Immigration Equality, told India-West.
 
Immigration Equality – an organization that represents people from around the world fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status – fought for the release of Kumar and Sukhwinder and represented their case for political asylum. 
 
 In routine procedure, people who seek political asylum are paroled from ICE custody while their case is pending, Lee noted, adding that both demonstrated a “credible fear” of being persecuted in India during their initial ICE interview.
 
During the six-month detention, the couple was held in separate cell blocks, away from one another. “I cannot live without him. We came here to be together; all we want is to be together,” said Kumar in an interview with ICE officials. Kumar’s requests for a shared cell with Sukhwinder went unanswered, according to Immigration Equality.
 
Four requests for parole were also denied despite the fact that Kumar has a cousin – Jatinder Kumar – who offered the couple housing in his La Crosse, Wisc., home.
 
The 28-year-old Kumar hails from Rewari, in the state of Haryana. During his teen years, Kumar felt extreme family pressure to marry a woman, despite his emerging alternate sexuality. 
 
“He was afraid his family would kill him if he didn’t marry a woman,” said Lee. “He felt he would be poisoned or strangled or burned alive by homophobic people,” added Lee.
 
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