An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Illegal Migration to US: Lure for the Punjabees never ebbs

punjus.jpgLure of life in US has been very strong in some particular communities in India. One of those are the Punjabees. Some how the Punjabees make it to US from their small town and villages – many times illegally – and work hard to make it big. Some do but many don’t. The sentiment that still goes around in the community is that its better to work hard and somehow make do in the US than slug it out in India. Being an NRI has almost become a status symbol. This caricature of the Punjabees was so well portrayed in the recent movie by Dharmendra and his sons “Yamla Pagla Diwana”. In this movie, ENglish speaking NRIs hold a special status and with their English, which apparently no one understands in Punjab, these special sons of soil are able to rule the roost wherever they go. Of course, Deols had taken the NRI obsession of Punjab to an extreme. Even more extreme was the lack of English speaking / understanding skills in Punjab. But beyond the hillarious self-mockery by Deols – which by the way, only THEY are allowed to portray – was the sad truth of US/Canada bound Punjus.

Often they can risk whatever they have – sell houses, farmlands and jewelry – to make way to the US.

Many years back the route was through New York, where people would land somehow – by ship or on some visit and then stay back. Every some years, an amnesty would be announced and the illegally staying guys would get their “Green Card” and become “Pakka” (Firm). But those days are long gone. The hunger and the lure for US hasn’t ebbed though. So new routes have opened up.

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If you have ever been to Eiffel Tower in Paris, you are bound to hear chaste village style Punjabi being spoken with the choicest of abuses, if you are lucky. And then you will see many Punjabi young guys selling memorabilia there under the tower. Punjabees can be found in strange lands. In European countries and cities you haven’t heard of and now, in Latin America.

Thousands of immigrants from India have crossed into the United States illegally at the southern tip of Texas in the last year, part of a mysterious and rapidly growing human-smuggling pipeline that is backing up court dockets, filling detention centers and triggering investigations. The immigrants, mostly young men from poor villages, say they are fleeing religious and political persecution. More than 1,600 Indians have been caught since the influx began here early last year, while an undetermined number, perhaps thousands, are believed to have sneaked through undetected, according to U.S. border authorities.

Mostly in these cases, an agent or a relative contacts a local attorney and gets the proceedings filed for their release. Bonds are posted and arguments made. Once released, these youth find their way to their relatives or friends and start working. They then file for asylum based on prosecution. Many get their Green Cards and stay on. I know some who have followed this route successfully. Although the border of entry is Mexico, they often land in countries way beyond – EL Salvador, Colombia etc. They work there for long, often years and then they come over. And yes, there are Punjabi business owners who give them work there for very less – part of an alliance arrange by the “agents” in India.

Like the article says – and what shocked me sometime back when I came to know about it from actual knowledge – that in the Detention center of Texas, it is very common to find surnames like Patels and Singhs. Lots of Gujaratis and Punjabees are jailed in American detention facilities along with the Latinos.

In January, immigration court calendars at the area’s two main detention facilities were full of the common Indian surnames Patel and Singh, and attorneys and judges struggled to keep up.

According to some grapevine, it is also said that some “agents” actually use Indian consulates to get the US visas for people sitting in Guatemala or El Salvador. Yes, American consulate members can be bribed and they are. In fact, for the correct price, it would not be uncommon for the consulate staff to actually come out and hand over the documents to the right agent! There is enough heckling amongst the consulate staffers to be posted in India, for they can make their lifetime’s money in one posting.

The entire drama of the illegal immigration to US is no more a local phenomenon. Agents who get people here to US illegally are outsourcing, insourcing, offshoring, and whatever-shoring the various parts of Supply Chain to get the product to the right “target area”. The entire chain is distributed but run very efficiently through all kinds of technical tools.

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