Two Religious Asylum Seekers Detained in Sheridan, Oregon Have Filed a Federal Lawsuit - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Two Religious Asylum Seekers Detained in Sheridan, Oregon Have Filed a Federal Lawsuit

Asylum seekers of the Sikh faith who were detained at a Sheridan, Oregon correctional institution have filed a federal lawsuit, saying that they were denied their religious freedom.

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    Two Religious Asylum Seekers Detained in Sheridan, Oregon Have Filed a Federal Lawsuit
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    Portland, OR (AP) -- Religious asylum seekers detained in Oregon are filing a federal lawsuit claiming they were denied religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    Two asylum seekers who were detained at a federal prison in western Oregon have filed a lawsuit contending the Trump administration violated religious protections.

    Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Pachattar Singh and Gurpreet Singh filed the federal lawsuit Thursday saying they weren't allowed to follow customs of their Sikh religion at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan.

    "While detained at Sheridan, asylum-seeking detainees of the Sikh faith were denied a vegetarian diet, and many were forced to eat meat to avoid malnutrition and starvation," the lawsuit said.

    The plaintiffs were told to pray in their cells, but their religious beliefs do not allow them to pray in a room with a toilet, the lawsuit said.

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    According to police, suspect Seth Holcomb walked up to the counter to make a purchase. He leaves the store and then comes back in as if to make a second purchase. Then, he pulled out a knife at the counter. What he didn't expect was that the clerk would pull out a machete of his own.

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    The lawsuit said those are violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    The current status and whereabouts of the plaintiffs was unclear.

    The federal government hasn't responded to the lawsuit.

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement in late May sent more than 120 detainees from the U.S. southern border to Sheridan. The agency said it needed space for up to 1,600 detainees after the Trump administration announced a zero-tolerance immigration policy. Detainees were also sent to Texas, California, Washington and Arizona.

    Other attorneys working to release the detainees said few, if any, of the detainees were serving a criminal sentence but were housed in a criminal setting in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons made some improvements in the housing and food for detainees at Sheridan, the lawsuit said, but restrictions remained. The last Sikh detainee at Sheridan was released in late September.

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    "Plaintiffs' inability to freely exercise these religious beliefs was a cause of immeasurable distress for them," the lawsuit said.

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