The desperate and tragic plight of a father and daughter who drowned while trying to cross the border from Mexico into the US has become a new flashpoint in the border crisis, after a photographer captured a haunting image that shows the pair lying facedown, washed onto the banks of the Rio Grande.
The toddler is tucked into her dad’s T-shirt an apparent attempt to keep her close as the current took them away. Her arm is flung around his neck.
Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, died as he tried to bring his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, to safety and a new life in the US Ramírez’s wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, says she watched from the shore as her husband and daughter were pulled away by a strong river current near the border crossing between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas.
The small family was fleeing poverty in El Salvador and had secured a humanitarian visa in Mexico — but after spending two months in a migrant camp waiting to apply for asylum in the US, Martínez decided that they should try to cross the border on Sunday.
The shocking and unsettling image has drawn comparisons to other powerful photos, of the death of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in 2015 as his family tried to reach sanctuary in Greece, and of Omran Daqneesh, who was 5 when he was wounded in an airstrike in Aleppo.
On the same day Óscar Alberto and Valeria died, US Border Patrol agents found four bodies along the Rio Grande in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, about 55 miles west of Brownsville. In that case, three children — one toddler and two infants — died along with a 20-year-old woman.
On Wednesday, Trump blamed current US immigration laws for the deaths. When he was asked how he felt about the photo of the dead father and daughter, the president replied, “I hate it.”
“I know it could stop immediately if the Democrats change the law. They have to change the laws,” Trump said, adding, “and then that father, who probably was this wonderful guy, with his daughter — things like that wouldn’t happen.”
Trump predicted that if asylum rules were changed and a wall were built, migrants wouldn’t try to cross the river.