CBP Letter of Inquiry for Gurupreet Kaur

June 20, 2019
Mr. Kevin K. McAleenan
Com­mis­sion­er, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion
Act­ing Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty
Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20528

Cc: U.S. Bor­der Patrol, Tuc­son Sec­tor Chief Patrol Agent, Roy Vil­lare­al

Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Offi­cer for Civ­il Rights and Civ­il Lib­er­ties, Cameron Quinn

Com­mis­sion­er McAleenan,

We write to express our deep and urgent con­cern about the death of Gurupreet Kaur, a six-year old migrant girl from India. Accord­ing to a Reuters arti­cle, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from your agency con­firmed that she died of heat stroke in the Ari­zona desert last week near the Lukeville port of entry after her moth­er went to search for water. The Pima Coun­ty Office of the Med­ical Exam­in­er has record­ed near­ly six­ty migrant deaths this year alone in one coun­ty of the Ari­zona desert, which fol­lows the 127 migrant deaths they record­ed in this coun­ty dur­ing 2018. In south­ern Ari­zona, more than 3,000 indi­vid­u­als who, due to the pres­ence of bor­der walls, attempt­ed to cross in remote areas, ulti­mate­ly per­ished in the desert. His­tor­i­cal stud­ies show that large num­bers of deaths in remote desert areas did not occur pri­or to the con­struc­tion of bor­der walls. Addi­tion­al­ly, in the last year, a num­ber of migrants have died, includ­ing sev­er­al chil­dren, both with­in and out­side of CBP cus­tody.

SAALT has been doc­u­ment­ing the rise of asy­lum seek­ers from South Asia over the last two years and the human rights abus­es and civ­il rights vio­la­tions they face in deten­tion facil­i­ties. We are equal­ly trou­bled by the esca­lat­ing num­ber of arrests of Indi­an and Bangladeshi nation­als by your agency both at the south­ern bor­der and inte­ri­or.

We believe that your agency’s enforce­ment through deter­rence pol­i­cy, includ­ing bor­der walls that fun­nel peo­ple into the desert; vio­lent esca­la­tion of arrests; crim­i­nal­iza­tion of vol­un­teer human­i­tar­i­an aid work­ers; inten­tion­al rejec­tion of asy­lum seek­ers attempt­ing to cross at ports of entry (meter­ing); the dan­ger­ous migrant pro­tec­tion pro­to­cols; and depor­ta­tion of indi­vid­u­als with sig­nif­i­cant med­ical con­di­tions are linked to the rise in migrant deaths.

In this par­tic­u­lar case of Gurupreet Kaur, we request answers to the fol­low­ing ques­tions and an imme­di­ate inves­ti­ga­tion into Gurupreet’s death:

  1. Were Gurupreet or any of the oth­er four migrants she was trav­el­ing with turned away by CBP offi­cials at the Lukeville or any oth­er port of entry?
  2. Describe the inter­ac­tion between Gurupreet’s moth­er and CBP offi­cials when they found her.
  3. Have CBP offi­cials encoun­tered the three oth­er migrants — two women and an 8- year old child? Describe that inter­ac­tion. Where are all of them now?
  4. What lan­guage access is pro­vid­ed by CBP to migrants who speak Urdu, Hin­di, and Pun­jabi?

SAALT and many oth­er nation­al and local orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) Office of Inspec­tor Gen­er­al have doc­u­ment­ed egre­gious, dan­ger­ous, and puni­tive con­di­tions expe­ri­enced by asy­lum seek­ers in deten­tion facil­i­ties across the coun­try. While we remain con­cerned about these abus­es, we are also dis­turbed by the increase in migrant deaths along the U.S. Mex­i­co bor­der and see these as linked issues between CBP and ICE. Despite vast­ly increased bud­gets for DHS gen­er­al­ly and CBP par­tic­u­lar­ly, the treat­ment of migrants has degrad­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly, and we deserve answers imme­di­ate­ly.

Signed,

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran
Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)