Official tending to details of returning Indian girl’s remains home as advocates call for action to stop migrant deaths

Ritu Jha-


Indian authorities are working on the details of sending the body of a 7-year-old girl who died in the Arizona desert last week back to India, however, they did not confirm when her remains would return home.

The decision about whether to cremate the body of Gurupreet Kaur or take the remains back to India will be made by the girl’s family members, Sumati Rao, Consul (CIC & Visa), Consulate General of India, San Francisco, told indica in an email.

“In cases of death, there are a number of formalities/documentation required, for which the Consulate has offered assistance,” said Rao when asked her body will be cremated here or in India.

The Consulate is deeply distressed with the sad loss of a young life, she added.

“We are in touch with the (Customs and Border Patrol) officials on the situation. We have also reached out to the family and offered assistance,” said Rao.

When asked how many people were traveling with the girl (Kaur) Consul Rao said, “As of now, we are aware of three other Indian nationals, all are women.”

Gurupreet Kaur, the young girl who died of heat stroke on Tuesday, June 12,  and her mother were among a group of five Indian nationals dropped off that morning by human smugglers in a remote border area near Lukeville and Quitobaquito Springs in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Biosphere Reserve, CBP said in a statement last week.

Her body was found about a mile north of the Mexico-U.S. border in a forbidding landscape in a dry and arid area, located 17 miles west of Lukeville, a U.S. border town 50 miles southwest of Tucson.

The CBP described the terrain where the young girl was found as “rugged desert wilderness” and said anyone there would have “little to no resources.” Temperatures were around 108 degrees on the day the girl is believed to have died.

Gurupreet’s mother and another woman went in search of water, leaving the 7-year-old girl with two others from the group. The girl’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.

Meanwhile, civil rights organization SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together), a nonprofit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the U.S., said in a statement that the death was devastating.


“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,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, interim co-executive director of SAALT.  “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, notwithstanding 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 will be sending a letter of inquiry to CBP 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, SAALT said in the statement. 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.

As CBP 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.

SAALT has been tracking both the rise in the number of South Asians crossing the border over the past 5 years and their treatment in detention facilities. Between October 2014 and April 2018, CBP arrested more than 17,000 South Asians.

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

SAALT has urged the communities to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.


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