Family of Six-Year-Old Who Died Crossing the Border Say They Wanted a Better Life For Her

Family of Six-Year-Old Who Died Crossing the Border Say They Wanted a Better Life For Her

Gurupreet Kaur was just six years old when she and her mother made the arduous journey across the US-Mexico border into the rugged desert of Arizona in early June 2019. They had left their home in Punjab, India, in the hopes of joining Gurupreet’s father, who was living in New York City and awaiting a hearing for his asylum case. Sadly, Gurupreet never made it to New York City.

Gurupreet and her mother were in a group with three other Indian immigrants. They had been dropped off near the border in a remote desert area and told to walk north. Desperately hot and thirsty, Gurupreet’s mother left her in the care of other group members while she and another woman went to find water. But they became permanently separated when they couldn’t relocate the group, and Border Patrol picked them up. After searching for the rest of the group, Border Patrol officials found the body of Gurupreet, who had died from heat stroke. 

The other group members were taken to a hospital.

Immigration attorney Deepak Ahluwalia, who serves on the Sikh Coalition board, said the news of Gurupreet’s death was heartbreaking.

“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.

Increasing Numbers of Indian Immigrants Making Dangerous Journeys Across the Desert

Gurupreet’s parents released a statement saying they decided to seek asylum in the US to provide Gurupreet with a better life.

“We wanted a safer and better life for our daughter, and we made the extremely difficult decision to seek asylum here in the United States,” said the statement. “We trust that every parent, regardless of origin, colour or creed, will understand that no mother or father ever puts their child in harm’s way unless they are desperate.”

In recent years, more Indian immigrants have been feeling that desperation. In 2018, over 6,000 Indian immigrants were apprehended by Border Patrol near the US-Mexico border. By 2022, that number had risen to more than 16,000. Like Gurupreet’s family, many seek asylum due to persecution in their country of origin. Common reasons cited for this persecution include religious beliefs, political alignment, being a minority in the country, or being LGBTQ.

Frequently immigrants enter the country on a tourist or student visa before applying for asylum, but if this isn’t an option, some fly to South America before crossing into Mexico, then the US. Those who attempt to cross the US-Mexico border face many dangers associated with unscrupulous smugglers, like the ones who forced Gurupreet and her mother to cross in 108-degree weather.

Learn More About Asylum and Immigration From an Experienced Immigration Lawyer 

Deepak Ahluwalia is the lead attorney at Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law, a firm that assists immigrants with the many legal challenges of applying for asylum, gaining authorization to work, seeking legal status, and pursuing citizenship. Mr. Ahluwalia has been interviewed on the subject of immigration by multiple major news sources, including CNN, the BBC, The Guardian, and more.

If you need help with your immigration case, please contact Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law for a free, confidential consultation.