EDINBURG, Tex. – On June 15, the decomposed body of 11-year-old Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez was found in South Texas.
The boy had come alone from his home country of Guatemala and had apparently gotten lost in the Texas brush, mere miles from the border with Mexico and less than a single mile from the nearest home.
His body was found in a relatively remote area. The official cause of death has not yet been determined, although Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra explained that authorities suspect heat stroke. An autopsy found no signs of trauma.
A pathologist estimated that the body had been there for about two weeks.
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The phone number for his brother in Chicago was scribbled on the inside of his belt buckle. After authorities contacted the brother, the brother gave them his father’s phone number in Guatemala; the father identified the boy by his clothing.
“Down here finding a decomposed body…we come across them quite often,” said Guerra. “It’s a very dangerous journey.”
Guerra noted that this was the first child immigrant his office had found since he became sheriff in April.
Even though the journey is notoriously dangerous and difficult, record numbers of children have been crossing into the country illegally, leaving the U.S. government to search for ways to deal with the influx of survivors who do manage to survive the journey.
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In fact, CBS 7 reports that more than 52,000 unaccompanied children – mostly from Central America – have been apprehended illegally crossing into the U.S. since October.
By law, the children must be turned over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department with 72 hours of their arrest, a requirement made difficult by their sheer numbers.
Many children simply turn themselves over to the first law enforcement person they see.
Obama has dubbed the current state of affairs an “urgent humanitarian situation.”