The Sikh Coalition does not provide direct legal services on asylum or immigration cases, as immigration policy is not a primary area of our work. 

In recent years, however, the United States has seen an influx of immigration and asylum-seekers from India—including from Punjab specifically—due to a range of complex political, social, and economic factors. Given this increased need, we have worked alongside allies and partners to collaborate in specific campaigns over the past several years to protect impacted community members’ civil rights.

Learn more about some of these campaigns via the case studies below, and be sure to review our Immigration Know Your Rights and Immigration Community FAQ. Please note that neither of these documents constitute legal advice.

Case Study: Opposing CBP Confiscation of Sikh Migrants’ Articles of Faith (2022-2024)

In August of 2022, reports emerged that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents were seizing and destroying the dastaars of and otherwise mistreating Sikh asylum-seekers at our nation’s southern border. Unfortunately, this egregious behavior pattern fit within a larger trend of CBP illegally confiscating the personal property of migrants.

In response, the Sikh Coalition joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU-AZ, other Sikh organizations, and additional partners to ensure accountability for this behavior and push for policy change that will ensure it is not repeated. Our joint efforts include:

“Federal law protects the right of all people, including migrants, to practice their faith freely, which includes maintaining access to articles of faith and treating those articles with dignity … Migrants are among the most vulnerable people in the world, and how we treat them isn’t just a matter of law or policy but a reflection of our values and the moral clarity in our society.”

Sahel Kaur, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney

Key Resource: Well-Founded Fear

In 2021, the Sikh Coalition joined with counsel at the Stanford Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic and Harvard Law School’s Religious Freedom Clinic as well as key community experts to write and publish Well-Founded Fear: Understanding Legal Challenges and Best Practices for Sikh Asylum Applicants and Their Attorneys. This report provides practical guidance to individuals navigating the asylum process as well as context into the plight Sikh asylum seekers face in India, both for those in the legal profession and individuals who are representing themselves.

Case Study: Protecting Sikh Civil Rights in ICE Detention Centers (2019-2020)

In 2019, the Sikh Coalition joined other civil rights organizations, immigration attorneys, and activists for a day of action in support of Sikh and Cuban detainees who were protesting the conditions at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) El Paso Processing Center, ICE’s refusal to provide parole to asylum seekers, and immigration courts’ denial of bond for asylum seekers. Among the degrading practices being protested were the denial of turban material, the opportunity to engage in group prayer, and clean environments to conduct daily prayer; difficulty obtaining food that complies with the detainees’ religious-based diets; inconsistent or no access to language-accessible rules and/or interpreters; and a pattern of bond denial or excessively high bonds for Punjabi detainees compared to other ethnic groups.

We followed this day of action with a series of advocacy efforts, including:

  • Sending a letter to and filing a formal complaint with the DHS Office of Inspector General and ICE;
  • Partnering with South Asian Americans Leading Together and other civil rights organizations for a Capitol Hill briefing;
  • Organizing sangat members to deliver testimony at various city and state committees, including the New York City Council Committee on Immigration;
  • Spearheading a letter to 60+ congressional offices signed by 36 civil rights organizations; and
  • Submitting corrections to the Punjabi-language version of the National Detainee Handbook (NDH), ensuring that Punjabi detainees can understand their rights and obligations in detention facilities.

As we continue to monitor detention-related issues, we will also keep working with local sangats to identify Sikhs who are being detained to ascertain the needs and resources, including connecting detainees with interpreters and lawyers well-versed in handling the intricacies associated with these delicate cases. We also continue to provide religious materials, including turbans, gutka, and karas for detention center Chaplains to distribute to use in assisting Sikh detainees practicing their faith while detained.