Video: Good Samaritan, but not American

updated 12/4/2007 3:38:29 PM ET 2007-12-04T20:38:29

An illegal immigrant who rescued a 9-year-old after the boy's mother died in the Arizona desert was honored for his actions Tuesday by U.S. and Mexican officials at a border crossing here.

Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes, 26, stood shyly with his mother and stepfather as officials talked about his efforts to save Christopher Buchleitner on the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday.

"The desert has a way of rearranging priorities and to Manuel Jesus Cordova the priority was standing right in front of (him) that day," said Beatriz Lopez Gargallo, the Mexican consul general for Nogales. "And this man, this hero, did what men of honor do in all nations and in all cultures."

Authorities say if it had not been for Cordova, Christopher might be dead.

Cordova was two days into his journey from Mexico when he saw Christopher, alone and injured in the desert. He was dressed in shorts despite the desert cold, and his mother had just been killed when their van went over a cliff.

Cordova had said he gave the boy his sweater, fed him chocolate and cookies and built a bonfire. As the boy slept, Cordova kept watch and tended the fire.

"The only thing I was thinking about was keeping the boy warm," Cordova said Tuesday. "I was worried no one would come."

The two were discovered after a long, cold night in the desert by a group of hunters, who called authorities.

Christopher was flown to a hospital and later reunited with family members.

Cordova was taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol and agreed to return to his home in the Mexican state of Sonora without going through formal deportation proceedings.

The district director for U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva said Cordova deserved the opportunity to come to America to work and that the congressman plans to introduce legislation that will let him get a special visa. Such legislation rarely passes, but Grijalva aide Ruben Reyes said it was the only way they knew of to show their thanks.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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