Undocumented SoCal Cabbie Released from ICE Custody


Gurmukh Singh (far right), an undocumented Southern California taxi driver who has been held in ICE custody for nearly seven months, was recently released but still faces imminent deportation. (Singh family photo)

An undocumented Southern California taxi driver who was taken into ICE custody last April when he and his family went in for an interview so that he could receive a family-based visa, was released Oct. 9, but still faces imminent deportation.

“I did not know I was going to be released. Satguru (God) did this for me,” Gurmukh Singh, the sole bread winner for his family comprising a diabetic wife, two teenaged daughters, and elderly parents, emotionally told India-West in a telephone interview from his home in Garden Grove, Calif. “My wife and children were so happy to see me, and I am happy too, but also worried about my future,” said Singh, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998.

Though he was released, Singh still has a deportation order against him. Connie Choi, staff attorney for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which has taken up Singh’s case (I-W, Sept. 27), told India-West that the organization has requested ICE to remove the deportation proceedings, but has not yet received an answer regarding his case.

In August, ICE acting director John Sandweg issued a memo urging local ICE officials to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in deporting people who were the sole caretakers of U.S. citizens or minor children, regardless of status. In 2011, ICE issued a memo advising its staff to give low priority for deportations to those who had committed no crime and were no danger to their community.

Balwinder Kaur, Singh’s wife, is a U.S. citizen, as are the couple’s two children. Kaur had applied for a family-based visa for Gurmukh, and the family had gone to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Bakersfield, Calif., in April for an interview regarding the visa application. Singh was arrested at the USCIS office because he had failed to appear in court after his petition for asylum was denied. Singh told India-West he had never received the “notice to appear.”

Kaur’s application for Singh has been approved. Thus, once Singh’s deportation orders are removed, he would be allowed to legally stay in the country.

But Singh told this newspaper he fears being deported and being sent back to India. He left India when the country was in turmoil, and there was much violence against Sikhs, often perpetuated by other Sikhs, he said. Singh was not active in any of the separatist movements that advocated for Punjab to become a separate country known as Khalistan, but said nevertheless: “When I left India, they were looking for me.” He did not clarify whether “they” was Indian law enforcement or Sikh separatist movement leaders.

Singh stated he would not take his family back to India, as it would be dangerous for them there.

Last April, Singh was taken into handcuffs at USCIS’s Bakersfield office. “I asked to say goodbye to my family. They would not let me.”

“I felt like a light-bulb had gone off. My past was gone and I could not see my future,” he said.

Ironically, the Singhs had been waiting for two hours in USCIS’s Oaths and Citizenships section. “I thought they were making me a citizenship certificate,” said the taxi driver.

Singh said he was allowed to pray while in custody, but not allowed to wear a turban, an article of Sikh faith. Singh said he does not normally wear a turban, except when he goes to a gurdwara.

The AAAJ and RAIZ, a youth-driven immigration organization, are urging people to call ICE field director David Marin in the agency’s San Francisco office.

Read more at http://www.indiawest.com