Sources: Woman and three children likely died of dehydration and heat exposure

Updated at 2:48 p.m.

The woman and three young children found dead Sunday near Anzalduas Park likely died of dehydration and heat exposure.

That information came from people familiar with the investigation but not authorized to comment publicly a day after U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered the bodies of four people, an adult woman, a toddler and two infants, near Anzalduas Park.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra said Sunday they may have been dead for a few days by the time they were found.

The sheriff issued a statement via Twitter that evening saying that Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies were also at the scene of the discovery.

Reached for comment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials referred questions to the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

“It’s an incredibly heartbreaking situation, which seems to happen far too often. Four bodies were found. Three of the deceased are children; one toddler and two infants. The fourth is an adult female,” FBI officials said in a prepared statement. “Because the bodies were located on federal land the FBI will assume the lead in the investigation, but we will continue to coordinate with our law enforcement partners.”

Located near the Rio Grande southeast of the park and within the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, the spot where the bodies were found is believed to be an area known locally as El Rincón del Diablo, or the Devil’s Corner, which is outside of Mission and near Granjeno.

The Monitor has previously reported that the area is often used by smugglers due to its proximity to Mexico, and is where deputies from the Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office assisted Border Patrol in processing migrants crossing into the U.S., that is until state and federal border security funds were exhausted.

Gallardo also said Sunday that he anticipates assisting Border Patrol again in the future.

On Monday, representatives with La Union del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, reacted to the deaths. 

“As our hearts break over the conditions immigrant children face at the border, many are asking what can be done to alleviate their suffering and death,” LUPE spokesman John-Michael Torres said. “Every day, people are donating to humanitarian groups and volunteering with new immigrants at the border.

“In responding to children and families with care, concern and love, border communities are demonstrating what a truly humanitarian response looks like.”

Regarding the deaths, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, tweeted about the Humane Act, a bill that he and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, are supporting that’s designed to provide a “safer alternative” for asylum-seekers.

“Sadly, this is what happens when infants are used as a ticket to enter the U.S. due to arcane laws. Inaction is not an option,” Cornyn tweeted Monday morning. 

According to its language, the bill would expedite court hearings for unaccompanied migrant children who have already been released to sponsors with notices to appear, and allow migrant children who have a claim to legally remain in the country. 

This would then allow them to make their claim in court before an immigration judge within seven days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening, and require a plan and provide for additional resources necessary for operational control of the southern border to name a few elements of the bill.

But the bill, which has been panned by child welfare experts, would actually put migrant children in custody for a longer period of time, Torres said.

“All together, it would exacerbate conditions in border immigration jails and push distressed children and families toward more dangerous crossing points, ultimately leading to more child deaths,” Torres said.

Regarding the four people found dead Sunday, individuals familiar with the investigation said the bodies have not yet been identified, and an autopsy is forthcoming. After identification, the consulate will be notified so they can notify next of kin.

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Update: Children may be among 4 bodies found near river, sheriff says