Death of Guatemalan boy reinforces perils of border crossing

The dangers that so many immigrants face when they cross from Central America into the United States were sadly reinforced this week, as a Guatemalan boy was found dead roughly a mile from the border between Mexico and South Texas.

Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez was 11 years old at the time of his death. Officials believe that he was left behind by a “coyote” he had paid to take him across the border and then succumbed to exposure. Though his body was discovered several weeks ago (on June 15), he was not identified until the end of the month. He had left his home in Huehuetenango, Chiantla, Guatemala to come to America. Huehuetenango is known as one of the poorest regions in the entire Western Hemisphere, having roughly one-third the wealth per capita of Mexico.

As an unaccompanied child, Gilberto was part of a rapidly growing subset of Central American immigrants. Already this year over 52,000 unaccompanied children have been taken into custody after being apprehended crossing the U.S. border. Many of them flee their home countries due to immense poverty and gang violence, and are coming to America in search of a better life. Earlier reports have also indicated that rumors are currently circulating in Central America that changes in immigration policy will now allow children arriving in the U.S. to stay indefinitely.

The surge in unaccompanied immigrant children has become so pronounced so quickly that President Barack Obama has labeled it an “urgent humanitarian situation.” On Monday afternoon, Obama announced that he would no longer wait for the GOP-led House of Representatives to vote on the long-stalled comprehensive immigration reform bill.  The bill was put through the Senate last year and has been a point of political contention leading up to the declaration that Obama would be using his executive authority to expedite it.

Authorities are attempting to work with the Guatemalan consulate to have Gilberto’s remains returned to his family.