The bodies of Salvadoran migrants Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, were found Monday on the banks of the Rio Grande near Matamoros, in Mexico's Tamaulipas states. They are the latest migrants who died trying to reach the U.S. to seek asylum. Journalist Julia Le Duc captured the image of father and daughter, her arm "draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments," The Associated Press notes. It appeared Monday in Mexico's La Jornada, and AP published it on Tuesday.
Here's their story, as recorded by La Duc from Ramírez's wife and confirmed to AP by his mother in El Salvador, Rosa Ramírez, and an unidentified Tamaulipas government official:
Ramírez, frustrated because the family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria. He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. ...
"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," [Rosa] 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." [The Associated Press]
Ramírez and his wife and child left El Salvador on April 3 and arrived in Matamoros early Sunday, they went to the U.S. Consulate to request an asylum interview, then decided to seek asylum on the U.S. side, AP reports. Under a recently enacted "metering" policy, U.S. officials conduct about 40-45 asylum interviews a week, and there are 800 to 1,700 names on the waiting list.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday the two deaths are "very regrettable," adding, "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. Mexico, under pressure from the U.S., has recently started taking and housing more asylum-seekers who successfully crossed into the U.S.