Six-year-old Gurupreet Kaur is one of 70 immigrants who died crossing the border into Pima County, Arizona, in 2019. On June 12, her body was found by Border Patrol agents after she died from heat stroke.
Gurupreet’s parents, who didn’t want to be identified for privacy reasons, released a joint statement following her death.
“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,” they said in a statement released by the nonprofit Sikh Coalition. “We trust that every parent, regardless of origin, color or creed, will understand that no mother or father ever puts their child in harm’s way unless they are desperate.”
Gurupreet’s father sought asylum in the US in 2013 and lives in New York City while awaiting a hearing on his case. Gurupreet and her mother remained in Punjab, India, until 2019 when they left and attempted to cross the US-Mexico border.
Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration attorney representing the mother, says she was facing persecution in India.
“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.”
Ahluwalia added that the number of Indians seeking asylum in the US has increased in recent years, and these immigrants often suffer religious or political persecution in India.
Desperation and a Dangerous Desert
The area where Gurupreet and her mother crossed is “extremely remote” and not a common place for immigrants to cross, says Agent Pete Bidegain of Tucson’s Border Patrol.
The smugglers Gurupreet and her mother relied on left them in this remote area on a day when temperatures soared to 108 degrees. They were with three other Indian immigrants and were only told to walk north. The nearest town of Lukeville was 17 miles away.
Gurupreet and an 8-year-old girl who was also with the group soon began struggling with overheating and thirst in the punishing temperatures. Gurupreet’s mother and another woman split with the group to search for water but were unable to find the others again.
When Border Patrol picked them up and learned they were separated from the group, agents conducted their own search. Sadly, they found Gurupreet’s body on June 12. She had died from heat stroke.
The other immigrants in the group were hospitalized and treated for dehydration.
Bidegain says that cartel-run smuggling operations show no concern for the health and safety of the people they transport.
“They are a profit-driven business, and they don’t have any regard for the people they’re smuggling,” he said.
Yet many Indians face desperate circumstances in their own country and feel they have no choice but to use these smugglers to escape persecution.
“The death of Gurupreet Kaur is horrifying, and we must ensure that this never happens again,” says Ahluwalia.
How to Get Help With Immigration and Asylum Claims
Please contact Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law for a free, confidential consultation about your immigration questions and concerns. Lead attorney Deepak Ahluwalia is a trusted expert on US immigration and asylum who has been interviewed by CNN, the BBC, The Guardian, and other global news sources. He can assist you with work authorization, residency, family immigration, and other processes.