A MIGRANT dad and his 23-month-old daughter tragically died after they had reached the US safely but drowned when he went to help his wife and the daughter jumped back into the river.
Salvadoran dad Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria drowned while trying to swim across the Rio Grande into Texas as “they wanted the American dream”.
The family from El Salvador had managed to successfully cross the river to Texas when Oscar had turned around to help his wife when the toddler saw him start to swim away and jumped back into the river, according to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
Mum Tania told the paper she watched as her husband and daughter drowned after being swept away by the current.
Their bodies were discovered on Monday near Matamoros, across the river from Brownsville, Texas.
In the haunting images Oscar’s black shirt can be seen hiked up to his chest with the girl’s head tucked inside.
Her arm was draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments – as her mum looked on in horror.
Mum Tania Vanessa Ávalos watched on in horror as her husband and daughter were swept away[/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.
But it remains to be seen if it will have the same impact on America’s fierce immigration debate.
Martínez is understood to have swam across the river with his daughter on Sunday after becoming frustrated that they could not present themselves to US authorities and request asylum.
The family are said to have tried to go through the official channels but had become disheartened after being in a migrant camp in Mexico waiting for asylum for two months.
According to reporter Julia Le Duc they had applied for a humanitarian visa when they had 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 for an asylum interview but there were only three interview slots a week.
Martínez’s mum Rosa Ramírez, who is back in El Salvador, spoke with her daughter-in-law over the phone after the tragedy unfolded.
‘HE COULDN’T GET OUT’
“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.
“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.
US President Donald 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!”
From the scorching Sonoran Desert to the fast-moving Rio Grande, the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border has long been an 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 on Sunday, 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.
Tamaulipas immigration and civil defense officials have toured shelters beginning 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 on Tuesday in response to a question about the photograph.
“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.
The 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.
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.
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But waits are long there as elsewhere along the border.
Last week a shelter director said only about 40 asylum interviews were being conducted in Matamoros each week, while up to 1,700 names were on a waiting list.
It’s not clear what happened to the family at the U.S. Consulate, but later in the day they made the decision to cross.
The bodies of the dad and daughter were discovered on the bank of the river near Matamoros, Mexico[/caption]
The bodies were expected to be flown to El Salvador on Thursday[/caption]
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