WASHINGTON:  Twenty of the 22 Indian Sikh asylum-seekers, who were on hunger strike for over two weeks at a detention centre in Florida protesting against alleged unfair practices by immigration department, have been released on bond to fight their cases.

These 20 asylum-seekers went on hunger strike on July 25 to protest ICE’s decision to deny them bond and Immigration Judge Rex Ford’s policy of refusing to grant bond to immigration detainees without family members in the US.

These asylum seekers travelled through several countries for more than six months and arrived on foot at the Texas border, and went on a hunger strike on July 25, to protest Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s decision denying them bond and an immigration judge’s policy of refusing bond to immigration detainees without family members in the US.

From the South Florida detention center, they were taken to a Gurudwara in Miami by its head priest, said Mr Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of North American Punjabi Association, who was in touch with the ICE authorities and played a leading role in securing their release.

Although they are released from the jail, their future is uncertain in the US even if they will be able to get the immigration status. There will be too much hardship for them to establish themselves here, Chahal said.

“Things should never have reached this extreme point,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Florida staff attorney Shalini Agarwal, who wrote a letter to ICE last week seeking their release.

“ICE needs to honor immigration enforcement priorities enumerated by the Department of Homeland Security and use its prosecutorial discretion to not detain asylum seekers without bond, especially where they have demonstrated credible fear of persecution if returned to their home countries.

“Their granting of bond to some of these men is an important step, but there are many more detainees like them who should not be kept behind bars while their asylum proceedings are underway,” she said.

Jessica Shulruff, Supervising Attorney, Detention and Immigration Programs, at Americans for Immigrant Justice said, “Americans for Immigrant Justice has become increasingly concerned about the prolonged detention of bona fide asylum seekers with no criminal history who are availing themselves of protection under our immigration laws.”

“ICE routinely denies asylum seekers at Broward Transitional Center bond or release from detention even though they pose no flight risk or danger to the community, resulting in serious humanitarian and economic costs,” she said.