The 11-year-old Guatemalan boy's body was found about a mile from Texas' southern border on June 15, his brother's Chicago phone number scribbled on his belt buckle and a white rosary around his neck. While 445 immigrants died along the border last year, the discovery of Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez's decomposed body in the Rio Grande Valley highlights the perils unaccompanied children face as the US government searches for ways to deal with record numbers of children crossing into the country illegally. "Down here finding a decomposed body ... we come across them quite often," Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra says, adding that this was the first child immigrant his office has found since he became sheriff in April. "It's a very dangerous journey."
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended entering the US illegally since October, creating what President Obama has called an "urgent humanitarian situation." Yesterday, Obama asked Congress for more money and additional authority to deal with the surge of youths. The number of unaccompanied immigrant children picked up along the border has been rising for three years as they fled pervasive gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of the children turn themselves in to the first law enforcement person they see, so Guerra said it was unusual to find a child in this more remote area. Sometimes smugglers, known as coyotes, leave people behind if they can't go on; other times a group may scatter when authorities approach. (Read more US-Mexico border stories.)