August 3, 2022

Arizona Luminaria recounted the mistreatment of a Sikh asylum seeker who turned himself in to Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents.

On Aug. 3, a Sikh asylum-seeker crossed the border along with his wife and two young children near Yuma to turn themselves in to Border Patrol, according to Ahluwalia. After waiting more than 12 hours near the border wall, they were finally bused to the nearby station for processing.

After waiting all day in the sun — with the parents taking turns holding their young children, ages 2 and 4 — the man was feeling weak and ill, and was beginning to struggle to breathe. He was given water and allowed to sit down as two officers, one of whom he described as rude and aggressive ordered him to remove his turban, according to Ahluwalia.

He explained that he was happy to take it off and let them search it, but he wanted it back afterward. The officers took it off, took photos of him with his hair loose, and confiscated the turban. He said he felt humiliated.

As the processing continued, he told the officers he was feeling worse. They pressured him into signing paperwork he didn’t understand, telling him, “You need to sign this,” in a manner he felt was threatening, according to the case notes. They accused him of pretending to be sick, and one officer pulled him to his feet, pushed him against the wall, and handcuffed him.

His wife, who witnessed the aggression, began crying. When he tried to console her and his children, speaking to them in Punjabi, the officer who handcuffed him said, “You need to speak f—ing English,” he later told his attorney.

The officer then escorted him to a small solitary confinement cell and left him alone. He was in the room for a few hours, during which he threw up two to three times. Though he said there were cameras in the room, and he was banging on the door for help, nobody came. Finally, about three hours later, he was taken back to his family and an officer unshackled him.

He asked multiple times if he could have his turban back, according to Ahluwalia, but he never saw it again. He also repeatedly asked for medical attention, but was denied, with an officer explaining to him that he had already been given Tylenol. Four or five days later, after he was released, a volunteer at a welcome center in Tucson gave him cloth to cover his head.

“I wanted to cry,” he told his attorney. At the welcome center he tested positive for COVID-19, he told Ahluwalia.

— Washington, John. “Border Patrol Has New Orders Not to Trash Sikh Turbans but Isn’t Sharing Guidance Publicly, Advocates Say.” AZ Luminaria, September 19, 2022. <>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings, Religious Freedom Violation

Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Sikh