New Delhi/Mexico City, Oct 19 (IANS): The death of six-year-old Gurpreet Kaur in the Arizona desert in June this year, shocking as it was, was also a pointer to the sharp rise in the number of Indians seeking to surreptitiously cross into the United States from the southern border. The deportation of 311 Indians from Mexico comes amid data that over 7,000 Indians are facing deportation proceedings in US courts.
Gurpreet, along with her family, had sneaked into Arizona from Mexico. While she died of hyperthermia in the hot desert, her family merged among the millions seeking to migrate to the US with dreams of a better life.
For the National Migration Institute (INM) of Mexico, the deportation of the 311 Indians, comprising 310 men and one woman, was the first case of flying back such a huge number of illegal migrants.
In a statement, the INM said: "There is no precedent in the history of the INM - neither in the form, nor in the number of people - of a transatlantic air conduction, such as that carried out on this day," said the Mexican agency that is under the Ministry of Interior.
The Indians had entered Mexico irregularly and were found on different dates in eight different parts of the country.
The Indians had been detained in Veracruz, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco, Sonora, Durango, Baja California and Mexico City before being transferred to the migrants' centre in Acayucan, Veracruz, for identification and transfer to Toluca.
The INM was constantly in touch with the Indian embassy in Mexico to confirm their Indian citizenship, after which they were put on a Boeing 747 charter flight from Toluca to New Delhi on Wednesday. They were accompanied by migration agents and national guards.
"This was carried out thanks to the excellent communication and coordination with the Embassy of that Asian country, with which the recognition and return of these citizens was worked under strict adherence to the Migration Law," added the Mexican agency.
The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the issue. However, a source said that India does not support illegal immigration anywhere in the world. But in cases where the rights of documented Indian migrants are affected, including in the US, the Indian government takes up their case.
The deportation of the 311 Indians came after the Mexican government deployed thousands of National Guard troops at the border with Guatemala in June following pressure from US President Donald Trump, who threatened to levy tariffs on Mexican goods if Mexico did not slow the flow of drugs and migrants to the US.
According to the INM, nearly 4,800 Asian migrants - of whom 2,823 were from India - were referred to the Mexican immigration agency during the first eight months of this year.
Mexican authorities have reported cases of Indians being picked up as they walked along roads of eastern Mexico or were being transported by traffickers in cargo vehicles, along with central Americans.
The Mexican police recently arrested two leaders of a traffickers' organization that got Indian migrants to Mexico through the airport in Cancun, Quintana Roo (southeast), and then pushed them into the US by bus.
According to figures, in 2019, over 7,000 Indians were involved in deportation proceedings in courts across the US. India figured among the top 10 nations whose citizens were undergoing asylum hearings in the US, after Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba and Venezuela.
The death of Gurupreet Kaur and now the deportation of the 311 Indians has brought the focus on Indians seeking to cross into the US border without documentation.
According to the Washington-headquartered Migration Policy Institute, between 2010 and 2014, there were 2,67,000 undocumented Asian Indian immigrants in the US.
US Border Control figures show a massive jump in the number of Indians seeking to slip in illegally into the US. In 2008, there were 77 Indian nationals seeking asylum in the US, which jumped to 3,000 in 2017, and tripled to 8,997 in 2018.
While Indians made up just one per cent of the total illegal migrants apprehended in 2018, the sharp rise in numbers has been striking.
Between 2007 and 2018, the number of Indians apprehended rose from 188 to 9,234 - an increase of more than 4,811 percent, according to CQ Roll Call's analysis of Customs and Border Protection data. The greatest jump was along the southern border, where Indian apprehensions in the same time period increased from 76 to 8,997.
The number of migrants from Asian countries entering Mexico to go to the US has grown since 2016, and especially since April last year, according INM data.
According to a North American Punjabi Association report of last November, 2,400 Indians were languishing in US jails for illegally crossing the border.
According to NAPA figures of October last year, 377 Indians were detained at California's Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center, 269 at Imperial Regional Adult Detention Facility, 245 at the Federal Correctional Institution Victorville, and 115 at Washington State's Tacoma ICE Processing Center.
Most of the Indians who seek to migrate illegally are from Punjab, as was also the case of the 311 Indians.
The traffickers reportedly lure young Punjabis to migrate to the US illegally and charge between Rs 35-50 lakh per individual.
Almost 6,00,000 migrants arrived at the southern US border from Mexico till June this year, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Mexico deployed 6,000 National Guard troops on its southern border in June as part of measures to reduce migration in the wake of its agreement with the US, which had threatened to ley a 5 per cent tariff on Mexican exports to the US.