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Thu Jul 11, 2019, 04:43 PM

"The stresses of poverty are written in their skin, in their bones, and in their teeth"

As Donald Trump escalates his attempts to seal the border, medical examiners in Pima County, Arizona prepare for more bodies.

Natascha Elena Uhlmann
JUL—11—2019 01:59PM EST

Last month, a six-year-old named Gurupreet Kaur died in an attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Originally hailing from Punjab, India, and hoping to join her father in the United States, Gurupreet, her mother, and three other Indian migrants made the trek through a remote stretch of the Sonoran Desert in an attempt to secure asylum in Arizona. As the June temperature reached more than 108 degrees, Gurupreet’s mother split off from the group in search of water. She would never see her daughter alive again.

“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,” her parents, whose full names have not been released to the media, said in a statement released through the U.S. Sikh Coalition.

Gurupreet’s death speaks to the dangers of the journey to America: More than 2,100 migrants have died crossing into Arizona since 2001. Bruce Anderson, a forensic anthropologist with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in Arizona, told me that he is “looking at a body or a sun-bleached bone” every day. Tasked with investigating unexplained deaths in the state, Anderson’s job has become more difficult over time. According to his office’s most recent annual report, in the year 2000, Pima County’s medical examiners successfully identified 82 percent of Undocumented Border Crossers, the office’s term for migrants who have died attempting to cross into America. By 2018, that figure had dropped to 33 percent. Of the nearly 3,000 UBCs examined by the office since 2000, 1,050 remain unidentified.


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