Wednesday, June 26, 2019
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a bid by a citizen of India to block his deportation on the ground that as a member of a Sikh separatist party, he would be subject to harm if he were returned.
Crediting his testimony that he was beaten five times by police in the state of Punjab after attending a rally of the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar—known as the “Mann Party”—the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) found that Amritpal Singh would be safe if relocated outside Punjab.
A three-judge panel—comprised of Senior Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder and Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr., joined by District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation—affirmed the BIA’s denial of asylum and lifting a deportation order and its finding that relief was not available under the Convention Against Torture.
Addressing the application for asylum based in the asserted risk of harm, the opinion says:
“BIA’s conclusion that Singh can safely and reasonably relocate in India. The BIA noted that country conditions reports indicated that Sikhs can move freely within India, that the tenant registration system is not implemented everywhere in India, and that unless a Mann Party member is of interest to the central authorities and has a criminal history, relocation is feasible.”
The opinion continues:
“Although the documentary evidence shows that the Punjabi police have recently harmed Mann Party members, there is substantial support for the proposition that Mann Party members who leave Punjab will be safe from both local authorities and the Punjabi police, provided they are not ‘high-profile militants’—which Singh does not claim to be.”
Relief was also unavailable on the basis of “humanitarian asylum,” the opinion declares, explaining:
“Humanitarian asylum requires ‘extremely severe persecution.’…Singh’s five beatings and arrest, although disturbing, do not rise to the level of severity necessary to warrant humanitarian asylum.”
If Singh does not qualify for asylum, the opinion says, he’s not entitled to withholding of removal, for which the standard is higher.
The opinion says Singh does not meet the requirements of the Convention Against Torture, setting forth:
“Despite the documentary evidence that human rights concerns exist in India, Singh has not established that he specifically will be tortured. The evidence points to the contrary because he is not a high-profile Mann Party member. His past persecution does not compel a contrary conclusion.”
At oral argument in San Francisco on June 10, Smith expressed skepticism as to Singh’s claims. He said he’s heard “at least 10” appeals brought by someone with the surname “Singh” with “virtually identical claims.”
When Singh’s lawyer, Inna Lipkin of Redwood City, reported that Singh’s mother was beaten to death by police in 2013, Smith scoffed:
“Mother’s almost always killed, almost always beaten up.”
The judge also noted that Singh is not a leader of the Mann Party and was a “no-big-cheese guy” who should not attract police attention.
Lipkin insisted that her client “believes he is on a list of chronic offenders” but was unable to provide Smith, under questioning by him, with a reference in the record to proof of that.
Arguing for the government was Andrew B. Insenga of the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation in the District of Columbia. He said India is a nation of 1.2 billion people and that there are 28 states and seven territories with “a high degree of autonomy” and that Singh should be safe by staying out of Punjab.
The Mann Party principally operates in that state. It was formed by Simranjit Singh Mann, a member of the Sikh religion who advocates formation of a new nation— Khalistan—which would be the Sikh homeland.
Mann has been arrested and imprisoned for sedition and was jailed for his alleged involvement in the assassination of India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. The New York Times on April 8, 1989, in reporting the arrests of four persons in connection with the plot against Gandhi said:
“The most prominent of the accused is Mr. Mann, a former senior official who was dismissed when he called on Sikhs in the armed forces and the police to revolt against the Government. Mr. Mann is the head of a powerful faction of a militant Sikh political group, the Akali Dal party, and has been imprisoned on terrorism charges for more than four years.”
He was released in November 1989.
Despite Singh’s membership in the Mann Party, Lipkin did not acknowledge that her client actually is a separatist, saying that he was beaten “due to an imputed separatist ideology that the police believed he had.”
The case is Singh v. Barr, 15-71651.
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