The body of an 11-year-old Guatemalan boy with a rosary around his neck was found in the south Texas desert scrub earlier this month, officials said Monday, the same day Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson toured a Border Patrol station and warned parents against illegally sending their children on the long, dangerous trip north.
“The journey is not safe,” Johnson said at the Border Patrol’s station in McAllen, Texas, about 20 miles from where the boy’s body was found June 15. Johnson added that children who crossed the border recently would not qualify for the Deferred Act for Childhood Arrivals, which shields some immigrants who came as undocumented children from prosecution and deportation.
The Hidalgo County sheriff’s office said the boy's body was found in brush near the border town of La Joya, Texas. Authorities worked with the Guatemalan consulate and concluded the child was from Chiantla, Huehuetenango in Guatemala.
An autopsy on the decomposed remains did not reveal any trauma to explain how the boy died. But a phone number was found inscribed in the brown belt the boy had been wearing. Authorities said it connected them with a person identifying himself as the brother of an 11-year-old who was last seen crossing into the United States with his uncle. That boy was last seen 25 days before the younster's body was found.
The uncle had been detained by the Border Patrol and didn’t see his nephew again, family members told authorities. The boy, investigators said, was named Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez.
Also in mid-June, the body of a 16-year-old Central American boy who died from exposure was found on ranch land 70 miles north of the border in Brooks County, Texas.
In a brief news conference on Monday, Johnson said he was confident a solution to the issue of unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally would be found.
Johnson spoke at about the same time President Obama announced in Washington that he planned to use his executive authority to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress” because House Republicans haven not taken action to overhaul immigration laws.
Obama said the current crisis of tens of thousands of children arriving at the border from Central America is not a valid reason for Congress to hold off on passing comprehensive immigration legislation, as many Republican members of Congress have said.
Obama also repeated that minors who have arrived in recent months will be sent back to their countries of origin, a message that the administration has tried to send Central Americans.
Earlier in the day, the White House began pressing Congress to come up with more than $2 billion in new money to manage the flood of unaccompanied children arriving mostly in Texas.
Johnson referred to that supplemental funding. When a reporter asked how Congress would fund this when it was in recess, the secretary replied: “I believe there’s bipartisan support for this.”
He praised the efforts of the Border Patrol and other departments, saying they have done a “terrific job under trying circumstances.” He said the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice were moving resources from the interior to the border, including Border Patrol agents from other parts of the country.
Follow @hbecerraLATimes on Twitter.