SAN FRANCISCO, Ca.: A federal appeals court refused last month to grant political asylum and withholding of deportation to Jasbir Singh Bajwa who fear he will be tortured or killed if he returns to India,
A three-judge panel of the US. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an immigration judge’s 1985 ruling denying asylum to Jasbir Singh Bajwa, a 30yearold ex official of the All India Sikh Students Federation, and ordering Singh’s deportation. The court also refused to reverse a Board of Immigration Appeals ruling affirming the asylum denial and deportation order.
Singh said in testimony and in his application for asylum that in August 1982 he was arrested and imprisoned for nine days, during which police brutally tortured him. When he was released on a writ of habeas corpus obtained by his mother and brother, police threatened to kill him if he told of his torture.
Singh and he complained to the superintendent of police in spite of the threat but was told there was no record of his arrest or incarceration,
After his release, Singh, who was a district president of the A.I.S.S.F? From 197981 and a member of its national central committee from 198284, lived in the Golden Temple in Amritsar until a few days before the June 1, 1984, raid by the Indian Army. Sought in his hometown by plainclothes police, he fled to New Delhi.
In January, 1985, he arrived in the United States on a false passport and was apprehended by immigration authorities a few weeks later. Since then, he has been held without bond in Louisiana, Arizona, and Texas where he is now.
He applied for asylum and withholding of deportation in April, 1985. Fong said Singh undermined his credibility at the July hearing by saying that his high position in the A.I.S.S.F. would subject him to persecution.
Michael J. Johnson, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and the government’s lawyer fighting the appeal, said the case was decided ‘on the question of Singh’s credibility. “Basically, he didn’t offer any evidence except the evidence from his own mouth, if that wasn’t credible, there was nothing else to stand on”.
Johnson acknowledged that asylum seekers often have difficulty obtaining evidence to support claims of persecution. But he said Singh could have presented evidence that he tried to get prison and other records and was refused.
Wade Chenick, Singh’s attorney, said that he filed a petition to the appeals court on Dec. 29 asking for a rehearing on the grounds that Singh never got a fair hearing because Fong and the BIA failed to consider certain evidence, including three articles published in Punjab newspapers linking Singh to bombings, and the killings of prominent Hindus. The articles also quote Singh denying his involvement.
“The Ninth Circuit said the only evidence’ provided was (Singh’s) testimony, yet here we are submitting newspaper accounts,” he said. Case law says that if a federal court ascertains that relevant evidence was not considered at the administrative level, the court must remand the case for further fact finding, Chernick said. He also said the court must consider the fact that a person’s name has been publically linked to what is perceived to be antigovernment activity, whether the accounts are true or not.
Chernick said that Judge Fong, in noting that Singh had remained in India without persecution for two years after his release from prison, failed to realize that Singh had been in disguise. Chernick also said Fong erred in interpreting Singh’s statements about Longowal as evasive. “They were not evasive, they were explanatory”, he said,
Chernick said Singh had not understood that he had a right to write his family because he doesn’t speak English well.
If the appeals court refuses to send the case back to the BIA, Chernick can appeal it to the BIA, Chernick can appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court, “but chances are they won’t consider the case,” he said. In that case, Singh would be subject to deportation.