(Reuters) - The parents of a 6-year-old migrant girl from India who died of heat stroke in an Arizona desert said they sought asylum in the United States because they were “desperate.”
“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,” said the girl’s mother, Ms. Kaur, 27, and her father, Mr. Singh, 33, in a joint statement released through the U.S. Sikh Coalition that did not give their first names.
“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.”
The girl, identified as Gurupreet Kaur, died in a remote desert area west of Lukeville, Arizona, a U.S. border town 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Tucson, after her mother left her with other Indian migrants she was traveling with to go in search of water, a medical examiner and U.S. Border Patrol said.[nL2N23M00F]
The girl’s death earlier this month, the second recorded fatality of a migrant child this year in Arizona’s southern deserts, highlighted the danger of summer heat as a surge of migrant families, mainly from Central America, cross the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum.
Gurupreet’s father has been in the United States since 2013 with a pending asylum application before the New York immigration court. Singh and Kaur, both Sikhs, had not seen each other since 2013, approximately six months after Gurupreet was born, according to the statement. According to Indian media reports, the parents are from Punjab.
Gurupreet’s body is being flown to New York City for her funeral.
An increasing number of Indian nationals are entering the United States from Mexico, according to immigration officials.
Indian asylum seekers range from Sikhs claiming political persecution to lower caste “untouchables” facing death threats for marrying outside their class, according to immigration lawyers.
They are among thousands of African and Asian migrants also making the arduous journey, led by smuggling cartels.
Gurupreet’s mother was released from an Arizona ICE processing facility on June 18 and allowed to travel by bus to New York City, where she has a notice to appear before an immigration court.
Up to May 30, the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, which records migrant deaths in much of Arizona’s southern deserts, counted 58 such fatalities, most due to heat. It recorded 127 deaths in 2018.
Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Cynthia Osterman