Pope expresses ‘immense sadness’ at seeing haunting photo of migrant dad and daughter, 2, who drowned trying to reach America

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POPE Francis has expressed his “immense sadness” at seeing the disturbing pictures of a migrant father and his baby daughter who drowned while trying to reach the US.

Salvadoran dad Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria were killed while trying to swim across the Rio Grande into Texas as “they wanted the American dream”.

A Salvadoran migrant and his 23-month-old daughter drowned while trying to swim across the Rio Grande into Texas
A Salvadoran migrant and his 23-month-old daughter drowned while trying to swim across the Rio Grande into Texas
Pope Francis released a statement expressing his ‘immense sadness’ over the tragedy
Reuters

In response to the tragedy, the Pontif, 82, released a statement saying he will pray for the victims and “for all migrants” who have lost their lives.

The statement read: “With immense sadness, the Holy Father has seen the images of the father and his baby daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River.

“The pope is profoundly saddened by their death, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery.”

The family from El Salvador managed to successfully cross the river when Oscar turned around to help his wife who had decided to turn back to the Mexican side of the river, reports La Jornada.

However, the toddler jumped back into the treacherous water when she saw her dad swimming away, it has been reported.

Mum Tania, 21, who was swimming across with a friend, told the paper she watched her husband and daughter drown after they were swept away by the strong current.

Their bodies were discovered on Monday near Matamoros, across the river from Brownsville, Texas.

US President Donald Trump has blamed asylum laws for the tragedy.

With immense sadness, the Holy Father has seen the images of the father and his baby daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River

He told on the White House lawn: “If they changed the laws you wouldn’t have that.”

Later, he tweeted: “The Democrats should change the Loopholes and Asylum Laws so lives will be saved at our Southern Border.

“They said it was not a crisis at the Border, that it was all just ‘manufactured.’

“Now they admit that I was right – But they must do something about it. Fix the Laws NOW!”

In haunting images, Oscar’s black shirt can be seen hiked up to his chest with the girl’s head tucked inside.

Her arm is draped around her father’s neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments – as her mother looked on in horror.

Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria both died in the crossing
Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria both died in the crossing

Family Handout

The father and baby daughter died after being swept away by the current, it has been reported[/caption]

The heartbreaking photo reveals the dangers faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the US.

Mexican newspapers have compared the photograph to the 2015 image of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi who drowned off the Greek island of Kos.

Martínez is understood to have swam across the river with his daughter on Sunday after becoming frustrated that his family could not present themselves to US authorities and request asylum.

They are said to have tried to go through the official channels but had become disheartened waiting in a Mexican migrant camp for two months.

Oscar reportedly quit his $350-a-month job at Papa John’s pizza, where he worked as a delivery driver, in order to make the journey north towards the US.

His wife Tania had already left her job working as a cashier at a Chinese restaurant to become a full time mother to baby Valeria, it has been reported.

Mum Tania Vanessa Ávalos watched on in horror as her husband and daughter were swept away
AP:Associated Press

Mum Tania Vanessa Ávalos watched on in horror as her husband and daughter were swept away[/caption]

Martínez is pictured with his wife and daughter in a family photo
Martínez is pictured with his wife and daughter in a family photo

Family Handout

The family had waited for two months in a Mexican migrant camp before deciding to swim down the river[/caption]

Family Handout

Mum Tania watched as her husband and daughter drowned, it has been reported[/caption]

Family Handout

Valeria, who was only 23-month-old, jumped back into the river after her father[/caption]

The treacherous route the family took after they waited two months for an asylum interview which never came

According to reporter Julia Le Duc, the family had applied for a humanitarian visa when they reached southern Mexico but had taken a bus to the border in the north because “they wanted the American dream.”

They had approached officials on the international bridge across the river and asked about applying for asylum but were told the office was closed and there were lots of other people ahead of them in the queue.

A few months ago it was reported there were 1,800 people waiting in Matamos, in north east Mexico, for an asylum interview but that there were only three interview slots per week.

Martínez’s mum Rosa Ramírez, who is back in El Salvador, spoke with her daughter-in-law over the phone after the tragedy.

“When the girl jumped in is when he tried to reach her, but when he tried to grab the girl, he went in further … and he couldn’t get out,” Ramírez told AP.

DEADLY CROSSING

“He put her in his shirt, and I imagine he told himself, ‘I’ve come this far’ and decided to go with her.”

Ramírez said her son and his family left El Salvador on April 3 and spent about two months at a shelter in Tapachula, near Mexico’s border with Guatemala.

“I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a home,” Ramírez said.

“They hoped to be there a few years and save up for the house.”

El Salvador’s foreign ministry said it was working to assist the family including Ávalos, who was at a border migrant shelter following the drownings.

The bodies were expected to be flown to El Salvador on Thursday.

Trump remained defiant about maintaining strong border controls with Mexico.

He wrote on Twitter: “Democrats want Open Borders, which equals violent crime, drugs and human trafficking. They also want very high taxes, like 90%. Republicans want what’s good for America – the exact opposite!”

The family had tried to get into the US via official channels and had approached officials on the international bridge
Alamy

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From the scorching Sonoran Desert to the fast-moving Rio Grande, the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border is a long and at times deadly crossing between ports of entry.

A total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded last year – the toll so far this year has not been released.

In recent weeks alone, two babies, a toddler and a woman were found dead – overcome by the sweltering heat.

Elsewhere three children and an adult from Honduras died in April after their raft capsized on the Rio Grande.

And a six-year-old from India was found dead earlier this month in Arizona, where temperatures routinely soar well above 38C.

Immigration and civil defence officials in Tamaulipas, Mexico, began visiting shelters weeks ago to warn against attempting to cross the river, said to be swollen with water released from dams for irrigation.

On the surface, the Rio Grande appears placid, but strong currents run beneath.

MEXICO PRESIDENT REVEALS HIS ‘REGRET’

“Very regrettable that this would happen,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said yesterday about the drowned baby and her father.

“We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing” the river.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

US “metering” policy has drastically reduced the number of migrants who are allowed to request asylum, down from dozens per day previously to sometimes just a handful at some ports of entry.

A Tamaulipas government official said the family arrived in Matamoros early Sunday and went to the US Consulate to try to get a date to request asylum.

The Rio Grande River flowing through Brownsville, Texas
Alamy

All Down the Line – the migrant trains to the US

Driven by extreme poverty and political instability millions of migrants are attempting to find a new life in the United States from Central America but are being met with Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

Entire families from countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador desperately cling to trains and container trucks as they search for a way out of desperate poverty and a new life in the US.

Many intending to cross the border illegally make the journey through Mexico by stowing away on trains, collectively known as La Bestia, The Beast, or Tren de la Muerte, Train of Death.

Migrants have been known to die or lose limbs getting caught between the wheels and they also are vulnerable to criminal gangs and are exposed to robbery, rape or death.

Under pressure from the US, Mexico has firmed up its borders with its Central American neighbours and been more ruthless deporting back people from those countries.

Others have used long convoys of containers and then hidden inside.

The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said the photo of the drowned migrants showed a failure to tackle desperation.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “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.”

Texan Beto O’Rourke, 46, who hopes to secure the Democrat nomination to run in the presidential race, took to Twitter to blame Donald Trump for the deaths.

Sharing the tragic story about the migrant deaths he wrote: “Trump is responsible for these deaths.”

He added: “As his administration refuses to follow our laws – preventing refugees from presenting themselves for asylum at our ports of entry – they cause families to cross between ports, ensuring greater suffering & death.

“At the expense of our humanity, not to the benefit of our safety.”

The bodies of the dad and daughter were discovered on the bank of the river near Matamoros, Mexico
AP:Associated Press

The bodies of the dad and daughter were discovered on the bank of the river near Matamoros, Mexico

The bodies were expected to be flown to El Salvador on Thursday
AP:Associated Press

The bodies were expected to be flown to El Salvador on Thursday[/caption]

The photos have been compared to the 2015 image of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi who drowned off the Greek island of Kos
The photos have been compared to the 2015 image of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi who drowned off the Greek island of Kos
AP:Associated Press

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