6-Year-Old Girl Asylum Seeker Who Perished in the Desert Illustrates Dangers of the Journey

Double chain link fences at the border between Mexico and the US.Gurupreet Kaur crossed the border into the United States with her mother, two other women, and another little girl. All five had traveled from India in an attempt to enter the United States by crossing the Mexican border on foot.

Smugglers dropped their group off near an interstate on the Mexican side of the border and told them simply, “Walk north.” They crossed the border at a site so remote there was no wall, no fence, no buildings — just open desert and a series of three-foot-tall poles barring vehicular entry.

The temperature climbed to 108°, and Kaur’s mother set off in a desperate attempt to search for water. Gurupreet stayed behind with another woman and an eight-year-old girl.

Gurupreet’s mother had ventured off with another woman from the group and then gotten lost. A day later, they encountered a Border Patrol agent.

After realizing the rest of the group was missing, the agent helped track them down, eventually finding the eight-year-old and her mother a day later.

Several hours after starting their search, they found Gurupreet’s remains.

How Did a 6-Year-Old Girl From India Die Crossing the Border?

Authorities determined that Gurupreet died of heat stroke. She was found wearing a black short-sleeved shirt, black pants, and a hair tie.

She had made the long journey from Punjab, India, with her mother to join her father, who has been living in New York City since 2013. At the time of her death, his asylum application had been pending before the New York immigration court for six years.

The girl’s name, Kaur, is a surname many Sikh women share. In recent years, Sikh communities in India have faced growing persecution from the now Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled India. Heightened discrimination has led many to seek asylum in the United States, where any individual who has faced harsh judgment or persecution based on their religion, sexuality, or political allegiance legally has the right to seek asylum.

Nevertheless, growing applications in a largely stagnant queue have led more and more families to risk their lives by trying to enter the country through more dangerous means.

On the day of her death, Gurupreet became the 70th undocumented immigrant to have perished in the remote Arizona desert where she was found. Last year, 127 undocumented individuals died in the same area.

Where Does Gurupreet’s Family Go From Here?

Shortly after the news of Gurupreet’s death was released, Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration attorney in California, was put in contact with her mother. Ahluwalia currently serves on the board of the Sikh Coalition and was shaken by the news. “It hurts even more when you have a connection with that person. … My parents were from Punjab. I represent a lot of South Asians, and it’s just disheartening to see stuff like this,” he said.

At the time this news was released, Ahluwalia was appointed to represent Kaur’s mother in immigration proceedings. Her first court appearance in New York immigration court was still left unscheduled even weeks after this news broke, but Ahluwalia emphasized that Kaur would seek asylum as soon as she was given the opportunity.

He revealed how an increasing number of migrants from India are seeking asylum in an attempt to flee political or religious persecution, adding that he knew Kaur “was being persecuted by someone in her native country.”

“This is not something they thought was a walk in the park, and once they got there, they learned how bad it was,” he said. “It really makes you think of how bad the circumstances really must be in your native country for you to want to make that journey and risk your own child’s life.”

Get Help From a U.S. Immigration Lawyer

If you are struggling to seek asylum in the United States or have faced any discrimination or challenges in regard to your admission into the country, do not hesitate to reach out to Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law. Our immigration lawyers are available to assist, and we are dedicated to fighting for your family’s right to a safer life free from persecution.

Call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your confidential case review with no obligation.