Border patrol agents found the body of a child, believed to be a 7-year-old girl from India, in an isolated Arizona desert earlier this week, setting off a frantic search for human smugglers that left her in the dangerous location.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents found the body of the girl, who apparently had been traveling with four others — three adult women and another child, all thought to be migrants from India — about 17 miles west of Lukeville, Arizona, according to a CBP statement released Thursday.
Agents working along the Tucson sector of the border said they learned about the migrants from two of the adult women who had become separated from the others in their group. They explained to federal officials that they had been abandoned by smugglers in the desert.
A search of the area yielded the grim discovery of the young girl’s body, which was turned over to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
“Our sympathies are with this little girl and her family,” Tucson Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal said in the statement released by Border Patrol. “This is a senseless death driven by cartels who are profiting from putting lives at risk.”
According to the statement, aircraft and helicopters from the National Guard and CBP’s Air and Marine Operations searched the area for hours, while other federal officials combed the ground in an unsuccessful effort to find the other migrants or the smugglers.
The terrain where the girl’s body was found is particularly inhospitable, officials said. They described the region as a “remote area” and “a rugged desert wilderness with few backcountry roads and little to no resources.” What’s worse, the National Weather Service reported a high temperature in the area on Wednesday of approximately 108 degrees.
Border agents reported finding footprints late Thursday that suggest the two other women might have crossed back into Mexico, but U.S. and Mexican officials said no one had been found on either side of the border.
Children are proving to be among the most vulnerable victims of the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies, which aim to keep out even those with legitimate claims of asylum.
Some of the minors perished even after making the perilous trek across the desert, while in the custody of U.S. authorities.
Last September, a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in U.S. custody, the sixth migrant child to die in U.S. custody in the last eight months. The child’s death was only publicly reported last month, eight months after it happened. Before the girl’s death, no migrant child was reported to have died in U.S. custody since 2010.