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US officials investigating claims of Sikh turbans being confiscated at Mexico border

Washington: US government officials are investigating complaints that Sikh migrants had their turbans confiscated by border police agents at the Mexico border as they sought asylum.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sent a letter on Monday, to US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus, saying that the organization had documented almost 50 cases since June in which agents confiscated turbans, denouncing the seizures as "ongoing, serious religious-freedom violations." The CBP Commissioner, Chris Magnus on Wednesday said that his office is taking the matter seriously, The Washington Post reported.

Talking about the case, Magnus revealed that an internal investigation has been opened to address this matter. He further said that his expectation from CBP employees is to treat all the migrants with respect.
Notably, most of the migrants from India are Sikhs, probably from Punjab region, who come to the US seeking religious freedom, according to an ACLU letter.

"The Sikh faith is the world's fifth largest organized religion," it reads, adding that there are about 30 million Sikhs worldwide and more than 500,000 Sikhs living in the United States.
"Many Sikhs wear an external uniform to unify and bind them to the beliefs of the religion and to always remind them of their commitment to Sikh teachings," the ACLU said as quoted by The Washington Post.
"... When a Sikh ties a turban, the turban ceases to be just a piece of cloth and becomes one and the same with the Sikh's head. It is a religious commitment without which many Sikhs may feel that they have ceased to be a Sikh," it further added.

According to the publication, the CBP officials in the agency's Yuma sector have seen a historic influx of asylum seekers from nations all over the world, including India in recent months.
Around 10,000 Indian nationals have been taken into custody by agents in Yuma during fiscal 2022, which began October 1, according to the most recent CBP data, up from 1,834 during all of fiscal 2021.

Whenever the migrants are taken into CBP custody, they were asked to discard personal items such as backpacks, food or extra clothing. The agents also direct them to remove their shoelaces, which are considered a safety hazard for migrants in detention.
CBP policy also directs agents to "remain cognizant of an individual's religious beliefs while accomplishing an enforcement action in a dignified and respectful manner," according to the agency.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Arizona said immigrant advocates had raised concerns about the confiscation of religious headwear in meetings with Homeland Security officials in June. At that time, the CBP officials said that the items were only taken in instances when they were determined to be a security risk, and the turbans were returned unless they were "wet or damaged."
The ACLU of Arizona also said that it has not received reports of turban confiscations from other areas of the border beside the Yuma sector. (ANI)

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