Posted on October 31, 2023

Indians Are Entering the U.S. Illegally in Record Numbers

Tarini Parti, Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2023

After the second time Arshdeep Singh, a supporter of a Sikh political party in Punjab, was threatened by men he believed were affiliated with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, his father made arrangements for him to leave the country.


The 23-year-old is one of the record number of asylum seekers from India who are traveling across the world to the U.S.-Mexico border and contributing to the struggles the Biden administration is facing in curbing the surge in illegal border crossings.

Roughly 42,000 migrants from India have crossed the southern border illegally during the fiscal year starting last October through September, according to data compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is more than double the number from the same period the prior year, when crossings by Indians hit a historic high. An additional 1,600 have crossed from the northern border illegally—four times the number who crossed in the last three years combined.

Since 2007, the total number of illegal border crossings by Indians in a fiscal year has exceeded 5,000 only four times. Indians nearly all turn themselves in to Border Patrol, rather than being arrested while evading capture, because they want to ask for asylum in the U.S.


Administration officials say migration from India and other countries outside the Western Hemisphere has made it more difficult to stem the flow of illegal entries at the U.S. border. The U.S.’s lack of established relationships with those countries on immigration makes it slower and more expensive to deport those migrants.

Overall, arrests for illegal border crossings surpassed two million at the end of the 2023 fiscal year, making it only the second time they have crossed that mark. The first time was in 2022.

“It really is pointing to this huge trend of mass migration worldwide,” said Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh, an analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. “We’re seeing that people from other countries are making their way to the U.S. border, when traditionally they haven’t.”

For the first time this year, migrants from countries other than Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador, where the U.S. has typically seen asylum seekers, are expected to have a slight majority when the total arrests of migrants illegally crossing for the fiscal year are broken down by nationality, Putzel-Kavanaugh said.

Legal pathways for Indians entering the U.S. also are straining under heavy demand. In the past, some immigrants from India entered on a tourist visa and overstayed it rather than make the journey to the southern border to seek asylum. But wait times for those visas have exceeded two years. Indians also face a longer wait time than immigrants of any other nationality to get a green card in the U.S., according to government data.

Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration lawyer who represents Singh, said he is seeing an increasing number of political and religious persecution asylum cases from India, especially from the Sikh community.


Many Indian migrants are also coming to the U.S. for economic reasons, which don’t qualify them for asylum, saying in videos posted on social media and in interviews after being deported back that the lack of well-paying jobs made them desperate to leave. {snip}


Roughly 80% of the migrants from India are single adults, and most are coming through Arizona after taking what are coming to be known as “donkey flights” via countries that don’t require visas for Indian nationals or that have an easier process for obtaining travel visas. {snip}