The shocking image captured Monday was a grim reminder of the dangerous journey migrants take to the United States. Oscar Alberto Martínez had crossed the Rio Grande River and turned around to get his wife when his 23-month-old daughter saw him swimming away and jumped after him, a journalist says.
The father clung to the little girl in red pants and black shoes, but a strong current swept over and drowned them, Julia Le Duc, the photographer who captured the image of the pair, wrote for Mexican newspaper, La Jornada.
The newspaper talked to the man’s wife, Tania, who said she saw her husband and child drown Sunday. Their bodies were found on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
Their bodies were found Monday near Matamoros, across the river from Brownsville, Texas.
They had spent months waiting for asylum
The family had been waiting in a migrant camp in Matamoros for an appointment to receive political asylum from the US, the newspaper said, citing Martinez’s wife.
After two months of waiting in scorching heat — temperatures climbed to 113 degrees Fahrenheit at times — the family decided to cross the river out of desperation, La Jornada reported. The victim’s wife said they had obtained a humanitarian visa from the Mexican government.
Salvadoran officials warn residents
The two deaths promoted Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandra Hill to beg citizens to stay in the country and work with the government as it tries to resolve the economic issues that push so many to leave.
“Our country is in mourning, again,” she said. “I beg you, to all the families, parents, don’t risk it. Life is worth a lot more.”
Hill said the government is working with Mexican authorities to repatriate the remains.
El Salvador’s newly elected President Nayib Bukele said the government would help the family financially.
Reactions from presidential candidates
As news of the image have begun to spread, presidential candidates have commented on the devastating picture on Twitter.
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris called the situation “inhumane.”
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said “Trump is responsible for these deaths.”
CNN’s Natalie Gallón reported from Mexico City, and Steve Almasy and Christina Maxouris wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Ana Melgar, Andrea Diaz and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.