The death of 6‑year-old Gurupreet Kaur

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2019

We are dev­as­tat­ed to learn of the death of 6‑year-old Gurupreet Kaur.

Gurupreet’s body was found by U.S. Bor­der Patrol agents in a remote desert out­side the Lukeville, Ari­zona point of entry on Wednes­day, June 12th, just days before her sev­enth birth­day.

She died of heat stroke in the Ari­zona desert where tem­per­a­tures were 108 degrees Fahren­heit, accord­ing to U.S. Bor­der Patrol and the Pima Coun­ty Office of the Med­ical Exam­in­er (PCOME).

Gurupreet and her moth­er were report­ed­ly among a group of five Indi­an nation­als who were dropped off by migrant traf­fick­ers in a remote area on the U.S.-Mexico bor­der. Her moth­er and anoth­er woman went in search of water, leav­ing Gurupreet with two oth­ers from the group. Gurupreet’s moth­er was found by a U.S. Bor­der Patrol agent 22 hours lat­er. Four hours after that, Bor­der Patrol agents found Gurupreet’s body.

Sev­en migrant chil­dren have died in immi­gra­tion cus­tody since last year. Hun­dreds more have died close to ports of entry while attempt­ing to make the per­ilous jour­ney through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico bor­der.

SAALT is send­ing a let­ter of inquiry to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion­er, Kevin K. McAleenan this week, demand­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into Gurupreet’s death and infor­ma­tion about her moth­er and the oth­er migrants in their group.  

As U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion has esca­lat­ed bor­der enforce­ment and aggres­sive­ly turned away migrants attempt­ing to cross at ports of entry, deaths have con­tin­ued to mount. Migrants are forced right back into the dan­ger­ous con­di­tions that CBP and oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies often blame on migrant traf­fick­ers and smug­glers.

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT said, “U.S. bor­der mil­i­ta­riza­tion, forced migra­tion, and rejec­tion of migrants attempt­ing to cross at ports of entry have cre­at­ed an envi­ron­ment where a child like Gurupreet, can die in the desert, alone. Until this sys­tem is com­plete­ly defund­ed and a new one is cre­at­ed that upholds the dig­ni­ty of all migrants — we will con­tin­ue to see unspeak­able tragedies, not with­stand­ing the count­less deaths that go undoc­u­ment­ed. While ICE and CBP have expe­ri­enced unprece­dent­ed surges in their bud­gets, their treat­ment of migrants has plunged to new lows.

SAALT has been track­ing both the rise in the num­ber of South Asians cross­ing the bor­der over the last 5 years and their treat­ment in deten­tion facil­i­ties. Between Octo­ber 2014 and April 2018, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP) arrest­ed over 17,000 South Asians.

Of the South Asians who end up in deten­tion facil­i­ties, SAALT has tracked a pat­tern of abuse includ­ing inad­e­quate lan­guage access, lack of reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions, med­ical neglect, use of soli­tary con­fine­ment, and unac­cept­ably high bond amounts.  

We urge our com­mu­ni­ties to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.  

Stay updat­ed and active by fol­low­ing our updates and action alerts on Twit­ter (SAALTweets) and Face­book (facebook.com/talktosaalt).

You can also sup­port by donat­ing to these orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide imme­di­ate assis­tance:

  • The Fron­ter­i­zo Fian­za Fund is a com­mu­ni­ty bond (fian­za) fund based in El Paso and serv­ing Far West Texas and New Mex­i­co. Many detained migrants have no chance to be released while they wait the months or years until their tri­al. When some­one does receive a bond, they are often way out of reach for most fam­i­lies, rang­ing any­where from $1,500–50,000.
  • The Flo­rence Immi­grant and Refugee Rights Project is the only orga­ni­za­tion in Ari­zona that pro­vides free legal and social ser­vices to detained men, women, and chil­dren under threat of depor­ta­tion.
  • The Refugee and Immi­grant Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion and Legal Ser­vices (RAICES) pro­motes jus­tice by pro­vid­ing free and low-cost legal ser­vices to under­served immi­grant chil­dren, fam­i­lies and refugees in Cen­tral and South Texas.
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