Mexican Family Searching for Loved One’s Remains in Brooks Co.
NEAR FALFURRIAS – The family of a person who entered the U.S. illegally is trying to locate the remains of their loved one in Brooks County.
They sought out the help of a San Diego-based search group to locate their family member. Now, they’re learning the search can’t take place.
The family of Edgar Eladio Don Juan traveled north to the Rio Grande Valley on Monday.
They told CHANNEL 5 NEWS they just want to recover their loved one's remains so they can give him a proper burial.
“He crossed the border illegally into the U.S. near McAllen and we can't find him," said Don Juan's uncle, Pedro Lerma. "We haven't heard from him or anything else.”
Lerma said Don Juan crossed through McAllen and headed to Houston with the intent of reuniting with his children.
“He was deported to Mexico and so he was trying to get back to them,” said Lerma.
Don Juan‘s family received a call from a fellow traveler with a grim message. The voice on the other line told the family he died during the trip and said his buried remains could be found in Brooks County.
"One of the persons that was crossing with him, was the one that told us what had happened to him," said Lerma. "He was the one that told us that my nephew had passed away and that he had stayed behind. That's how we know what happened."
Lerma sought out the guidance and counsel of a man with experience in the area of finding missing immigrants.
A Google search led the family to Rafael Hernandez with activist group Angeles Del Desierto.
"We are a rescue team. Next month our organization will be 21 years old," said Hernandez. "We started in California. We try to recover missing people in deserts, valleys or even rivers or the sea in Mexico and the U.S."
Hernandez and his crew traveled to the Valley with the intent of carrying out a sweep through several Falfurrias ranches. They learned they would first need to gain the permission of the ranch owners.
"The only thing they tell us is that is not up to them or the Border Patrol to get permission to get into the ranches. It's up to the owners," he explained.
Right now, Hernandez and Don Juan’s family are facing a few challenges in locating their loved one.
For starters, they don’t have a pinpoint location on where the suspected remains may be. The area they’d like to search encompasses thousands of acres.
“I mean this is vast lands," said Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez. "You’re not going to go out there and pinpoint something.”
Martinez said he contacted ranch owners on behalf of the search party. He claims they declined to allow search parties of any sort on their lands, including the sheriff’s office or U.S. Border Patrol.
The legal authority to search private lands requires a warrant. Martinez said they don’t have enough information to go that route.
“You really have to have things in order, you know, to get your proper affidavit, to get someone to look at, and then give you that search warrant to go in specifically and look for that particular person," said Martinez. "But that many miles, vast lands, it’s very difficult.”
"Is a very difficult situation," said Lerma. "It is unbearable. It is not easy to know that someone has died and for the family trying to find him. No one can tell you that they are fine when their son died. It is very hard.”
Lerma hopes they’ll one day have a final resting place for Don Juan.
Mexico reports more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record
39 more people test positive for the coronavirus in Willacy County
As students prepare to return to classrooms, PSJA ISD provides options
Court documents reveal disturbing new details in Vanessa Guillen case
As Valley hospitals reach capacity, facilities scramble to add medical personnel