Searing photo of dead toddler with arm around her father’s head after both drowned in Rio Grande highlights perils of border crossing

Searing photo of dead toddler with arm around her father's head after both drowned in Rio Grande highlights perils of border crossing

The heart-rending image of a Salvadoran father and his young daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande on their way to the U.S. highlighted the human cost of the humanitarian crisis at the border.

The image, taken Monday by Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, showed the young daughter of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez wrapped in his shirt and clinging to his neck.

Martínez Ramírez was reportedly frustrated because his Salvadoran family was unable to immediately present themselves to U.S. authorities as they sought asylum, leading him to risk the dangerous river-crossing with his family.

Between the Sonoran Desert, which boasts regular temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and a fast-moving Rio Grande river, the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border is an often fatal crossing between ports of entry.

A total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded last year, according to the Associated Press. The toll for 2019 has yet to be released.

Mexico US Border Migrant Deaths
The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico.

(AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

“Very regrettable that this would happen,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday, responding 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.]”

Last week, a shelter director noted how long waits were for those seeking asylum to meet with U.S. officials and have their cases heard, saying that there were only 40-45 cases heard per week in Matamoros. Meanwhile, anywhere from 800-1,700 names are on the waiting list.

“With greater crackdowns and restrictions,” said Cris Ramón, senior immigration policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank in Washington, “we could see more desperate measures by people trying to enter Mexico or the U.S.”

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