Six-Year-Old Dies of Heat Stroke While Seeking A Better Life in the United States
On June 12, 2019, 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur was found dead by US Border Patrol officers in the Arizona desert. She would have turned seven just a month later.
Gurupreet’s parents, who did not want to be identified for privacy reasons, released a statement saying they sought asylum in the US to give Gurupreet a better life.
“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,” the statement explained.
Gurupreet’s father left their home in Punjab, India, and sought asylum in the US in 2013, when she was a baby; Gurupreet often talked about how much she wanted to see him. She and her mother began their journey into the US early in June and relied on smugglers to get them over the US-Mexico border. These smugglers left them close to the border in a group with three other immigrants. They were instructed to head north.
But the smugglers left the group alone to walk for miles, in a remote area of the desert, on a day when temperatures climbed to 108 degrees. Desperately thirsty, Gurupreet’s mother and another woman split off from the group to look for a source of drinking water. They were unable to find the group again and were later picked up by Border Control, who then searched for the others. On June 12, Border Patrol found Gurupreet’s body and ultimately determined that the little girl died of heat stroke. Two other members of the immigrant group were found and taken to a hospital.
In recent years, religious and political persecution has caused many Indian citizens, particularly minorities and LGBTQ individuals, to seek asylum in the United States. Unfortunately, not all of these immigrants are able to enter the country through official ports, and some resort to using smugglers like the ones who left Gurupreet and her mother in a remote area of the desert. This presents a dangerous situation for people desperate to escape persecution in their home country.
Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration attorney in California who is on the board of the Sikh Coalition, said he was devastated to learn of Gurupreet Kaur’s death, especially since he also has family in Punjab.
“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.
The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office reports that 127 immigrants died near the US-Mexico border in 2018.
Gurupreet’s parents say they will always feel the loss of their daughter but will “continue to hold onto the hope that America remains a compassionate nation grounded in the immigrant ideals that make diversity this nation’s greatest strength.”
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If you or a loved one need assistance with an asylum or immigration case, please contact Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law for a free, confidential consultation. Lead attorney Deepak Ahluwalia is an experienced immigration lawyer who has been interviewed by CNN, the BBC, The Guardian, and more news sources. He has also assisted hundreds of thousands of immigrants with the complex legal steps of immigrating, working in the US, and pursuing citizenship.