Photo of drowned father and daughter sparks new calls to deal with immigration crisis


Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock(NEW YORK) — It’s a single, haunting photograph that tells a horrible story, and almost 2,000 miles away, and may have a critical impact on the deadlocked immigration debate in Washington.

The father is seen lying face down in Rio Grande river near Brownsville, Texas — his 23-month old daughter’s arm around his neck — both dead after authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico into the U.S.

Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez had reportedly ferried his daughter, Valeria, to the U.S. side of the river first before returning for her mother, Tania Vanessa Avalos. But Valeria apparently jumped in after him, and when he tried to rescue her, both were swept away by the current.

The New York Times put the photo on its front page, one of many newspapers around the nation to do so.

The top Senate Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday morning next to a poster-sized version of the photo, saying migrants such as the father and daughter were trying to escape brutality, starvation and threats of rape and murder in their home countries.

“Any normal person would flee,” he said.

“We all — Democrats, Republicans, Americans — have a responsibility to act here,” Schumer said, as the Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday on emergency border funding, including money at detention centers where reports say children have been mistreated.

Across the Capitol, a similar sentiment came from the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, at a hearing on what to do about the immigration crisis.

“I realize tragedies occur in this country — all over the world. I don’t want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border,” said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. “I hope that picture alone with catalyze this Congress, this Senate, this committee to do something.”

The photos also show the child’s mother pointing out to Mexican authorities where she said her husband and daughter were swept away by the current hundreds of yards from where they had tried to cross.

The image of the dead father and daughter, and other photos, were captured by journalist Julia Le Duc.

The photograph has drawn swift and impassioned attention around the world to the desperate conditions that migrants can face both in their home countries and during their efforts to reach the U.S.

“The deaths of Oscar and Valeria represent a failure to address the violence and desperation pushing people to take journeys of danger for the prospect of a life in safety and dignity,” the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is compounded by the absence of safe pathways for people to seek protection, leaving people with no other choice than to risk their lives.”

In a tweet, Mexico’s former ambassador the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, said, “This tragedy is what happens when you try to enforce your way out of a #migration crisis. And in the end, the only winners will be the human smugglers and traffickers.”

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