3 Sikhs denied asylum request parole from jail

September 09, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

Three Sikhs who have remained in jail for nearly two years since being denied political asylum are requesting parole while they wait for a resolution of their cases.

The matter moved into federal court last month after the men protested their lengthy detention by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis gave the INS until late September to investigate and respond.

Meanwhile, public defenders assigned to represent the men say members of the local Sikh community have agreed to house and care for their clients if parole is granted.

"Given the physical, emotional and spiritual support provided by the community, it is extremely unlikely that the three gentlemen would flee such a supportive situation to go somewhere else where they would be alone and homeless," said Martin G. Bahl, staff attorney for the federal public defenders office. He said there is no evidence that the men have criminal records or would be any threat to the community.

Manjeet Singh, Manjit Singh and Satnaam Singh are being held in the Dorchester County Detention Center in Cambridge. Their parole applications were submitted last week to the INS, which expects to reach a decision within the next week.

George W. Maugans, the attorney handling the case for the INS, declined Wednesday to comment on the status of the investigation or the likelihood of parole, saying it is against agency policy to discuss pending cases.

However, two weeks ago, Don Crocetti, deputy director of the INS office in Baltimore, said it is unlikely the men would be released until the government of India supplies documents verifying their identities, to ensure they are not a threat. Contacted Wednesday, he said the parole request was under consideration. But he would not comment on the men's chances for release.

The Indian government's slow response to documentation requests has resulted in the lengthy detentions, he said earlier.

The men, who have been in jail 19 to 24 months each, claim to have fled India to avoid political persecution. Hostilities against Sikhs, who are seeking their own state, have escalated since the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh members of her bodyguard.

The men arrived at Kennedy International Airport in New York without documents, and were later sent to Maryland, one of five INS districts between Maine and Florida where people are held awaiting expulsion or deportation.

In petitions to the judge, the men lamented that their lengthy jail stay had come only because of their attempts to be free. "I have continued in immigration detention for nearly two years pursuing my dream to be free in this land of freedom," Manjeet Singh wrote.

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