Human Rights

Secret Injustice: The Harpal Singh Case

The Sikh Sentinel

It was not easy to give a telephone interview, but he made several fifteen-minute time limit calls to tell his story. That is how it works in jail, and that is where 45-year-old Harpal Singh has been since 1997.

Although secret evidence cases have been highlighted in the press since 9/11, the use of secret evidence has been going on long before then. Powers granted to federal prosecutors following the 1995 Oklahoma City, bombing are still being used to imprison immigrants based on secret evidence. Case in point - Harpal Singh.

After being arrested four times between 1987 and 1992, and put through brutal torture by Indian authorities, Harpal Singh skipped, bail and escaped to the United States with his wife Rajwinder Kaur in 1993. When they arrived in New York, both Harpal Singh and Rajwinder Kaur applied for asylum at the airport. While their application was being processed, the couple moved to northern California.

Harpal Singh has never been charged of a crime by the United States, and the Indian Government has never asked for his extradition, yet when Harpal Singh stepped outside the courtroom after his asylum hearing with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), four years later,-he was arrested and thrown in jail. Harpal Singh was accused by the INS of "engaging in activities which asserts constitute terrorist activities" that would statutorily bar him from asylum and qualify him to be deported. He was also deemed a threat to the national security of the United States. And all the evidence against him is classified National Security Information (NSI) which neither he nor his lawyers have ever seen. When asked why he thinks the government is detaining him, he said it was because of his activism in the Khalistan movement.

The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement which gained strength after the 1984 attack of the Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib) by the Indian Army, also known as 'Operation Blue Star,' and the pogroms against Sikhs after the assassination of Prime Minister Gandhi orchestrated by the Indian government. And for the next ten to fifteen years, what followed was atrocities committed by Indian officials to squash those they perceived as involved in the insurgency, mostly young Sikh men. It was during this time that Harpal Singh became a "central figure" in the Khalistan movement.

Harpal Singh talked in detail of those days and his involvement with Khalistanis, not only to The Sikh Sentinel (TSS). Because he did not know what the evidence was against him, he, his wife, and several witnesses testified in court to counter what he had to guess was the evidence against him. He said he testified in detail and told everything about his involvement with the movement. His testimony filled hundreds of pages.

A Dissident Is Here

The events of 1984, he said, made him realize his faith. He grew his kesh (hair) and began wearing a turban. As an attorney, he helped defend young Sikh youths who had been falsely accused of being militants. Harpal Singh became apolitical activist.
In 1985, Harpal Singh joined the All India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF), which was anon-violent group until it split into multiple wings, some of which advocated violence. His only involvement in the original non-violent AISSF, he said, was to organize large rallies to protest the Indian government's political agenda for Punjab, raise funds, and publicize the government's abuses against Sikhs. One of the rallies he organized was held to protest the building of a canal, which would take water from Punjab; 200 people were arrested.

Soon after; fifteen police officers detained him for questioning regarding Atinder Pal Singh, a vice president of the AISSF. He was also accused of anti-government activities and locked in a cell at the police station where he was tortured by having his legs pulled apart until the muscles tore. Harpal Singh's father, a retired semi-government official, used his influence to have him released. Harpal Singh was warned and threatened not to continue his political activities, but his political convictions only grew stronger from the brutalities he suffered. Harpal Singh continued to attend meetings and rallies and he continued to help young Sikhs in court. But he remained disconnected with the violent factions of the Khalistan movement.

Most militants went into hiding. This was a time when 'fake encounters' were common and thousands of young Sikh men 'disappeared,' as documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and many other human rights groups.

Harpal Singh was arrested again in 1989 for questioning about the whereabouts of other leaders of the AISSF, Charanjit Singh and Gurjit Singh. Charanjit Singh was accused of providing ammunition to the people who killed Sant Longowal. Both Charanjit Singh and Gurjit Singh died later in police custody and in a fake encounter, respectively. When they did not get what they out of Harpal Singh, the police tortured him by tying his hands behind his back and lifting him off the ground by a rope placed between his arms. The muscles in his shoulders tore and broke. He then had his legs pulled apart while a heavy steel roller rolled over his thighs. He could not walk or move his arms. Again, Harpal Singh's father intervened and he was released. They took him to the hospital.

Later that year, Harpal Singh was arrested a third time. He said the police detained him for agitating for Khalistan and again tortured him. They broke his leg twice, for which he spent three months in a jail hospital. Rajwinder was harassed by the police who visited her at her in-law's house regularly while her husband was in jail. Harpal Singh was finally released after his father posted bail. But this time he went into hiding.

Activities In The United States

In 1990, Harpal Singh fled India and came to Canada where one of his brothers was living. From there, he entered the United States and moved to California. He stayed with friends who were members of the Sikh Student Federation.

After settling down, Harpal Singh continued his political activities. He joined the Sikh Youth of America (SYA), an organization which supports Khalistan but is against violence outside India, and travelled the country speaking at various Gurdwaras and private homes about the situation of Sikhs in India. He participated in demonstrations, including one at the Indian consulate in San Francisco, and encouraged Sikhs to donate money to the Khalistan movement, although he claims he never personally handled the money. He told people to send their contributions directly to India or Pakistan. He only provided telephone contact.

Harpal Singh spent the next two years continuing these political activities, supporting himself by driving a truck. During this time, Harpal Singh also received a temporary resident's card through the legalization program using false identification cards.

In 1991, Harpal Singh and a friend, Pritpa1 Singh, formed the Khalistan Affairs Center that continues to be used as a lobbying office today. It is run by Amarjit Singh. Harpal Singh and another friend, Daljit Singh, also set up a trust to buy the Canadian newspaper Chardi Kala that is currently operational and covers stories about Punjab. That year, the FBI questioned Harpal Singh about the Panthic Committee, formed in 1986 as the Khalistan government in exile. The FBI told him that he was "free to propagate Khalistan" as long as he did not use or promote the use of "force."

Also that year, the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) kidnapped a Romanian diplomat, Liviu Radu. Harpal Singh told TSS that he was instrumental in his release. He and several people active in the Khalisian movement decided that the SYA would issue a press statement that called for the unconditional release of Radu. The statement was published in every newspaper in Punjab and in international Sikh publications. Eventually Radu was released unharmed. Harpal Singh said that the kidnapping only harmed the cause and that it should never have taken place.

Back To India

But in 1992, Harpal Singh returned to India. His wife was very sick. Only one other person knew that he was going back to India. When he arrived at Bombay Airport, both he and his contact were arrested, blindfolded and flown to New Delhi.

In detention, Harpal Singh was shackled and interrogated about his actions since he left India and his involvement with Sikh organizations in the United States, including Sikh Youth of America, the World Sikh Organization, and the Khalistan Affairs Center. He was again tortured with beatings and electric shock. He was accused of collaborating with various individuals sympathetic to the Khalistan movement and of participating in the kidnapping of the Romanian diplomat, Liviu Radu. Harpal Singh was then turned over to the Punjab police who threatened to charge him for possession of explosives in a fabricated case.


Harpal Singh's family had been searching for him and finally located him in Punjab. His father attempted to find more information on his son, but this time he was unsuccessful. He turned to human rights organizations such as the Punjab Human Rights Organization, Asia Watch, and Amnesty International for assistance. Harpal Singh was released five months later on bail; He and his wife went into hiding, and in 1993 they left India. They left behind their six-year-old daughter who is staying with their family.

Upon arrival in New York, Harpal Singh presented a newspaper article about his arrest to the INS and asked for asylum. Back in California, Harpal Singh again became involved in the SYA and with the Khalistan Affairs Center.


Harpal Singh testified that he had been in close contact with two key militants in the Khalistan movement, Daljit Singh (also knows as 'Bittu') and Paramjit Singh (also known as 'Panjwar').

Harpal Singh said that he and Daljit Singh were college buddies. By 1991 Daljit Singh became president of the Sikh Student Federation (SSF), a member of the Panthic Committee, and a convener of the International Sikh Youth Federation. He was in contact with Sikh leaders from around the world. Harpal Singh began to phone him regularly from California after a mutual friend brought them together. But Harpal Singh claims that "their discussions included the need for a more effective lobby; better media; efforts to get the United Nations involved; fundraising for Sikh-refugees in Pakistan, and generally how to keep the movement going."

Harpal Singh told TSS and in his testimony that his political views were that militancy hurt the Khalistan movement. And because of his views, he and Daljit Singh never discussed the acquisition of weapons or the recruitment of militants. He also told TSS and he testified that he never handled any money or sent any money to Daljit Singh. Harpal Singh believed the movement should not resort to militancy until they receive recognition by the United Nations as a "disturbed area". He said his only involvement was that he assisted many people reach Daljit Singh in Pakistan by telephone. He connected calls. Some of the callers were journalists from the newspaper Ajit and the Tribune who wanted a statement from Daljit Singh.

Paramjit Singh was a general of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), designated the Khalistan army in exile in 1986.

Harpal Singh stated that his involvement with him was limited to discussions of political strategy and militancy; the work of human rights groups in Punjab; and Canadian, American, and Sikh politics. The sticky point came when he sent $2,000 to Paramjit Singh in Pakistan. Harpal Singh told TSS and in his testimony that it was used to buy a truck. The documents for the purchase were presented as evidence to show that the money did not go for terrorist purposes. And although he had never met Paramjit Singh, he also sent $2,000 to his wife and $5,000 to his grandfather for medical treatment.

Activism Continued

Harpal Singh continued to contact Sikh activists and politicians in Punjab. In the United States, he organized and conducted fundraising activities for various groups including Khalistan Affairs Center, the Sikh Defense Fund which provides legal assistance to Sikh asylum seekers detained in North America, the Akal Academy which is an educational institute in India, and the Sikh Society of Punjab which provides education and medical assistance to Sikh refugees in Pakistan.

In his testimony, Harpal Singh stated that he believes the situation in Punjab is a civil war and that the use of violence is justified in a civil war as long as it does not target civilians.

He also testified that he was never involved in training militants, funding militants, or transporting militants. All he did was to tell people "who to call."

Harpal Singh's activities in the United States also included forming a committee to press the United Nations to recognize the Sikh people in India as a 'separate nation' and to declare Punjab a 'disturbed area.'

In 1995, the FBI questioned Harpal Singh about his return to India in 1992 because they said that members of his community had accused him of being an agent for the Indian government. They discussed his asylum application. Harpal Singh told them that he wanted asylums so that he could bring his daughter to the United States. Rajwinder Kaur, his wife, testified that her only involvement in her husband's affairs was limited to exchanging pleasantries. She was aware of her husband's involvement with Khalistan affairs and Khalistanis, but that was all. She also testified that they tried to bring their daughter Navroop to the United States but were unsuccessful.

Punjab Today

Returning to India is not possible for Harpal Singh. He testified that he fears he would be arrested, physically tortured and killed. His sentiments were supported by Cynthia Mahmood, PhD, an expert in South Asian and particularly Sikh affairs.

She testified that Harpal Singh was a "central figure in the expatriate Khalistani movement" and that he is one of 50 to 100 people worldwide who are seriously at risk in India. She also testified on the condition of Punjab today - that there are three groups that remain a risk: Khalistanis; those previously arrested; and women. The former (K.P.S. Gill) and current Director General of Police of Punjab have publicly stated they see a continued security threat to India from prominent Khalistanis living outside India, in Pakistan and the West.

If a threat were to again arise in Punjab, Mahmood believes that the Indian government would not hesitate in cracking down excessively. "Recent human rights improvements in Punjab are not durable, fundamental, or systemic changes."

Part II - Shadows

Harpal Singh and Rajwinder Kaur arrived in New York in 1993 and applied for asylum and withholding of deportation. To defeat those applications, the INS presented classified evidence and; secret witnesses.

The next issue will examine the immigration judge's ruling, the vagueness of secret evidence, the Patriot Act, legal tactics, politics, and the appeals that continue.

"And if he is guilty of aiding and abetting terrorism, you might be too." - Bay Guardian

Harpal Singh had friendships and acquaintances with many key players in the Khalistan movement which were in place long before any of them became politically involved following the 1984 attack on Darbar Sahib. With their long-standing trust for him, Harpal Singh was able to successfully walk between two worlds - that of the moderate Khalistanis and the militant Khalistanis.

Harpal Singh considers himself a non-violent activist who can influence prominent figures in the movement. But his influence and activism got him in trouble with the Indian authorities. After enduring several episodes of barbaric torture, Harpal Singh escaped from India with his wife Rajwinder Kaur in 1993.The couple applied for asylum upon landing in New York. While their asylum petition was being processed, Harpal Singh continued to work on the Khalistan movement from the United States.

The U.S. government had been aware of Harpal Singh's presence in the United States since his first arrival in 1989, but it was eight years later that they arrested him. The government, under the Immigration and Naturalization Service claimed that he was a threat to national security, a charge Harpal Singh denies. After an appearance with an Immigration judge in 1997 and a subsequent appeal before the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2000, Harpal Singh's case is now under another appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. If this decision does not go his way, Harpal Singh and his attorney will file a petition to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Secret Evidence

The INS is seeking to deport Harpal Singh back to India. To defeat his applications for asylum, the INS brought in secret evidence. Neither Harpal Singh nor his attorney have ever seen the secret evidence against him. Any discussion of that evidence in the successive court rulings is also a secret.

Professor David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center, Washington D.C., an attorney who has defended 13 noncitizens in such cases, told the Bay Guardian newspaper, "There's just no way to have a fair proceeding when the government presents its evidence behind closed doors and the foreign national then has to try to respond to what he thinks might be back there - without knowing what the evidence is, who said it, when it was said, or what it's about."

"One of my clients said it was like fighting shadows."

The INS brought some serious charges against Harpal Singh. Court documents made available from his attorney, Robert Jobe, reveal that the INS's case centered around charges that Harpal Singh was engaged in terrorist activities - that he provided "material support" to terrorist organizations and that he was a threat to the security of the United States. They also claimed that Harpal Singh was instrumental in the kidnapping of Romanian diplomat Liviu Radu in October 1991.

When this case was finally heard in April 1997, Immigration Judge Dana Marks Keener stated: "[The INS] leveled serious allegations against Harpal Singh…but they have calculatedly done so in a forum that requires the least amount of evidence for such charges."

A spokesperson for Robert Jobe told The Sikh Sentinel that they believe a good deal of this evidence consists of FBI analyses of conversations Harpal Singh had from his own home telephone and from secret witnesses who testified in the case.

Retroactive Law

In the early 1950s, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of secret evidence in cases involving immigrants suspected of crimes or political associations that posed a threat to national security. When President Clinton signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) in 1996, the use of secret evidence was further expanded to include cases involving alleged terrorists. AEDPA had a direct impact on immigration law. Before its passing, the only condition which would bar an asylum grant was if the applicant were a convicted felon. With AEDPA, the INS can use secret evidence to charge an applicant with terrorist activity and detain immigrants for years without filing criminal charges against them.

The biggest issue with using AEDPA in this case is that the vast majority of the activities Harpal Singh is being tried for preceded its passage. Harpal Singh's actions were perfectly legal at the time they were committed. Jobe argued that there was nothing in the wording of AEDPA that specifically states it could be applied retroactively, it is prominent by its omission and intentionally left out. Yet that is exactly what the Immigration Judge did in judging Harpal Singh.

The First Decision - 1999

In asylum cases, the Judge must consider whether the applicant is a "refugee." A refugee is a person who would face persecution if returned to the country they fled. In Harpal Singh's case there was no doubt, considering the horrific torture he had endured in India.

The Judge described Harpal Singh as an "impressive witness." His detailed testimony was supported, undisputed, by medical evaluation. Professor Cynthia Mahmood testified that Harpal Singh was among a select group of Khalistani activists who would be at serious risk if returned to India, even killed.

The INS argued that the country conditions in India had changed dramatically in the six years since Harpal Singh left Punjab because of the successful suppression of the Khalistani movement by the Indian authorities, often by brutal force. And because of the improved conditions, Harpal Singh should be deported back to India.

The Judge sided with Harpal Singh.

She was convinced that Harpal Singh had endured "truly despicable persecution at the hands of the Indian authorities." And to ensure compliance with the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating the Status of Refugees, the Judge decided Harpal Singh could not be deported even if he were involved in terrorist activities. She stated: "[Withholding deportation] would fulfill our moral and statutory obligation as a nation to afford protection to refugees without regard to political considerations."

The Judge also concluded that Harpal Singh was likely to be tortured in India and therefore, eligible for relief under the Torture Convention. Emma Winger, a spokesperson for Harpal Singh's lawyer, told The Sikh Sentinel that the requirements for getting relief under the Torture Convention - which means that Harpal Singh cannot be deported for fear of torture and possibly death - are very strict; and because he was given relief, it makes a strong statement about the seriousness of human rights abuses by the Indian government.

Harpal Singh was deemed a refugee who would not be deported back to India, but withholding deportation did not mean he could be released into the United States. That could only happen if he were granted asylum. With asylum, a refugee is granted permission to bring immediate family to the United States, work in the United States, obtain a Green Card for permanent residence status, and eventually become a citizen. Essentially, the refugee is given a new life in the U.S.

The only thing in his way now was the new immigration rule under AEDPA which the Judge decided to apply to this case. If an applicant is found to be engaged in any terrorist activity that threatens the security of the United States, the Judge could deny asylum.

Both Harpal Singh and the INS presented witnesses and documentation to support their interpretations of the scope of his activities, but many of the differences in their views of the evidence were a matter of perspective and political opinion.

The Judged found Harpal Singh to have engaged in terrorist activity by providing "material support" to militants.

The Judge said Harpal Singh provided potential donors with the telephone number of a money transfer service used to funnel money into Pakistan, he gave a small amount of his own money to the leaders in Pakistan, and "he crossed the legal line when he raised funds for individuals he knew (or should have known) had committed or might be planning to commit terrorist activities. The Judge stated, "He cannot hide behind a 'don't ask, don't tell' legal fiction." He had "a duty to monitor the use of funds… if he wanted to be assured they were being used only for humanitarian purposes." The Judge deemed Harpal Singh's fundraising activities constituted "material support."

The Judge also stated that Harpal Singh provided communication support when he worked out ways to connect phone calls to Daljit Singh and Paramjit Singh in Pakistan while avoiding detection by the Indian government. The communications support, she said, also constituted "material support." Harpal Singh told The Sikh Sentinel that he presented evidence to show that the money he donated was used for humanitarian purposes, but the Judge did not accept his claim, although no evidence was presented to show that the money went directly for terrorist activities.

The Judge did give him a break when she stated: "His decision to view this action through rose colored glasses is a rationalization, not an outright lie."

Jobe made the argument that because none of the organizations that Harpal Singh had been associated with were designated as 'foreign terrorist organizations,' he could not have engaged in terrorist activity. Even today, there are no pro-Khalistan groups on the United States government's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Although Harpal Singh was associated with Paramjit Singh's Khalistan Commando Force and Daljit Singh's Sikh Student Federation, neither is on the list. This is highly significant because they did not meet the requisite that they pose a threat to the security of the United States.

The Judge did not agree, probably because these groups were militant.

Based on all the evidence presented, unclassified and classified (secret), the Judge found that Harpal Singh "distorted or minimized situations where he agreed with militancy and where his actions crossed the acceptable line." In the December 19, 1999 decision, the Immigration Judge concluded that Harpal Singh was a refugee who did "engage in terrorist activities" and could be barred from asylum because of his fundraising activities and his work as a communications link.

But this was not the end. The Judge could reserve favorable discretion in considering asylum if she concluded that Harpal Singh was not a danger to the security of the United States.

The INS offered a surprising statement for the security argument. They said that the level of danger to national security need not be very significant "because the government of India is a government friendly to the United States, any of [Harpal Singh's] activities that endanger the security of India present a danger to the security of the United States. This statement said it all. The INS was pursuing Harpal Singh for purely political reasons.

The Judge, however, did not agree with the INS.

The purpose of the United States asylum law, she said, is humanitarian, not political in nature, and any political fallout from any particular decision should be ignored. In fact Professor Cynthia Mahmood provided uncontested testimony that militant Khalistanis were not a threat the United States government, nor to Indian officials visiting the United States. She based her opinion on the "respect Khalistanis have for the United States."

The Judge concluded that Harpal Singh was not a danger to the security of the United States.

Harpal Singh is a Khalistani. He was educated and trained as an attorney and has assisted pro bono in human rights cases while in the Punjab. The Judge felt that Harpal Singh played a constructive role in the community. He had openly campaigned for the United Nations to recognize the Punjab as a disputed territory. She also acknowledged that although the Khalistani movement's use of violent tactics was neither endorsed nor condoned, those tactics were not simply incidents of random lawlessness, but rather deliberate political maneuvers. "A de facto civil war has raged in the Punjab, with military and strategic targets. The struggle for Khalistan is an example of where one side calls those involved freedom fighters and their opponents call them terrorists." The Judge recognized the political legitimacy of this struggle and factored that into considering a favorable exercise of discretion.

The Judge considered Harpal Singh a credible witness, she believed he was viciously tortured in India and blocked his deportation, and she did not consider Harpal Singh a threat to the security of the United States; but in the end she took a leap from that opinion and made an upset ruling. For reasons more fully attributed to the secret evidence, the Judge found Harpal Singh to have a lack of candor regarding his involvement in terrorist activities. Based on her discretion alone, the Judge denied Harpal Singh's application for asylum.

In the remaining items of the ruling, the Judge ruled in favor of Harpal Singh in deciding that instead of participating in the kidnapping of the Hungarian diplomat Radu, he was actually key in getting him released. And Rajwinder Kaur, Harpal Singh's wife who was accused of much the same allegations, was granted everything - asylum, withholding deportation, and relief under the Torture Convention. The Judge went so far as to call the INS allegation that she was a national security threat "preposterous."


Both Harpal Singh and the INS appealed the Immigration Judge's decision. Harpal Singh appealed the denial of asylum decision and the INS appealed the blocking of deportation decision.

Harpal Singh's lawyer, Robert Jobe, held a press conference in February 2000 after filing the appeal.

Robert Jobe: "If there were any substance to these charges, any real substance, and if the FBI could prove [Harpal Singh's] involvement in a court of law without relying on the sleazy secret evidence, they would bring criminal charges, I'm sure… In this particular case, it's a miraculous thing, but [Harpal Singh] prevailed, despite the use of their classified [secret] evidence. He convinced the Immigration Judge that those allegations had no merit, that he was not a danger to the security of the United States. And despite the fact that he prevailed, even though he didn't see the classified evidence, he was able to rebut it. The immigration service is continuing to press this classified evidence and its appeal. We find that to be just despicable, frankly. Given the circumstances of this case, when a man's life is at stake, the only way that I could describe their tactics in this case…is, it's despicable."

David Cole, a constitutional lawyer at Georgetown University, has represented a number of people who faced detention based on secret evidence. He says that in his experience the U.S. government uses this tactic against people who are not in any real sense a threat to national security.

David Cole: "I've represented, over the last decade or so, thirteen people, against whom the government has sought to use secret evidence. The government alleged that all thirteen were threats to national security and should be detained and deported for that reason… And what it ultimately came down to in almost every case was that the government said: these people are a threat to national security, not for what they did, but for the organizations with which they are affiliated or associated. Not that they did anything bad, but that the groups have done something bad and we want to attribute the acts of the group to the individual where we have no evidence whatsoever, that the individual's actually furthered any illegal or terrorist activity. And that's obviously a power that makes the FBI's job easier, in a sense. They don't have to, you know, do the hard work to figure out if someone is engaged in criminal activity if they just establish that the person has affiliates with the wrong people, they can turn the matter over to the INS and seek to deport the person."

INS spokesperson Russell Bergeron said it's the agency's obligation, however, to present this evidence to the court. "In these rare instances where pertinent, important classified evidence is presented to us by outside agencies, this is the only mechanism currently provided to us, under the law to present this important evidence, this admissible evidence, to the courts. He was not clear about what "outside agencies" meant, but it is probable that it refers to agencies outside the United States.

Impact On Sikhs And Minority Communities

According to David Cole, virtually all secret evidence cases are against Arabs or Muslims or those perceived to be Arab. They wonder whether they are being singled out because of their political affiliations or personal associations. This only furthers the anxiety or suspicion that these communities have against authority - the FBI - and it makes the work of government officials more difficult; there is less cooperation between the government and the community.

An additional serious concern is that the impact of secret evidence use constitutes an impediment to free speech in the communities. The Arab-American and American-Muslim communities are aware of the political nature of the secret evidence deportation. These secret evidence deportation procedures also affect Sikhs, although the Sikh community may not be very aware of it yet. People are not willing to engage in political debate if their views are not popular or do not mesh with those of the government. It is political repression of whole communities.

The Stunning Second Decision, 2001

The Board of Immigration Appeals overturned all the favorable rulings by Immigration Judge Keener. According to Emma Winger from the attorney's office, the Board reviewed the Judge's decision and made its own decision. They did not review the evidence, not even the secret evidence, independently. They denied asylum to Harpal Singh and his wife Rajwinder Kaur, and they seek to deport them back to India.

What's Next

Currently, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing Harpal Singh's case and has ordered the Department of Homeland Security (under which the INS is now incorporated) to share its classified evidence with the court. Both the INS and Harpal Singh have completed making their arguments before the Court. A decision is expected soon.

Meanwhile, Harpal Singh is still in a Northern California jail. Rajwinder Kaur works in a factory, just making ends meet. She lives in Seattle, Washington, north of California, with their eight-year-old son. Rajwinder told The Sikh Sentinel that she was "just passing time." She comes to visit her husband often after work. Neither Harpal Singh nor Rajwinder Kaur has seen their daughter whom they left behind in India over ten years ago. Only with an asylum verdict can they bring her here. Harpal Singh said, "This has been very painful. The U.S. government tries to pin any movement to terrorism. We are freedom fighters."

His last thoughts in our final 15-minute conversation were of his kids. His last statement was: "The worst part is I cannot wear my turban." When asked if he would leave the U.S. if he were released, he said, "No, I want to stay here."



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