An 11-year-old Guatemalan boy, Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez, has been found dead from suspected heat exposure in the South Texas desert after crossing the border alone – possibly without food or water. Since October, the nation has struggled to house and process record numbers of minors fleeing civil and political unrest in Central America. Juarez is just the latest victim of the tragedy surrounding our borders.
The question is looming over the White House on exactly how to handle the mass of illegal immigrants flocking to our southern borders. According the Daily Mail, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended entering the U.S. illegally since October, creating what President Barack Obama has called an “urgent humanitarian situation,” though no resolution on how to handle the mass of immigrants has been reached. Meanwhile, unaccompanied illegal immigrant children cross over the border daily.
Juarez is now the face of the immigration reform issue since a name, family, and story are now known. According to CNN, the boy had traveled over 1,200 miles to reach the border.
See the map below, courtesy of the Daily Mail, to see exactly how far this little boy traveled.
The boy was found dead in the brush near La Joya, Texas, on June 15, but was not identified until this week. The boy is believed to have died of heat related causes due to his state when found. According to Sheriff Eddie Guerra:
The pathologist believes because of the way that we found the body, it had no shirt… that’s a sign of heatstroke.
Federal authorities were able to identify the boy from a phone number printed on his belt. They called the number and the boy’s father was able to identify the clothes the boy was wearing. The boy’s parents said that the child had left with his uncle to cross the border. However, the uncle was detained by border officials and it is unknown how the boy wondered away.
The AP reported that Cipriana Juarez Diaz, the boy’s mother, had begged the child not to go, but he insisted. Diaz is very sick and bedridden; therefore, unable to stop the boy. Diaz notes that the boy left because he wanted to earn money to help her get better.
I told him not to go but he wanted to help me get rid of my illness.
Diaz told reporters that she gave the boy a white rosary before he departed and etched the boy’s brother’s Chicago phone number on his belt. When the boy’s body was found, he was still wearing the rosary, belt, and his “Angry Bird” jeans, which ultimately led the authorities to identifying the body.
Hundreds of immigrants die crossing the border each year, and the discovery of Gilberto’s tiny decomposed body in the Rio Grande Valley on June 15 highlights the perils unaccompanied children face as the U.S. government tries to determine the best way to handle the situation. While we wait and discuss our plans of action, children and immigrants are dying at our borders and being dumped into mass graves.