WARNING: Graphic photograph below may be distressing to some readers
A heart-wrenching photograph showing the bodies of a father and his young daughter has delivered a brutal reminder of the high price migrants are paying in an attempt to flee their desperate homeland situations by crossing the United States-Mexican border.
Journalist Julia Le Duc captured the disturbing image on Monday, just hours after Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez drowned with his daughter, Valeria, tucked inside the back of his shirt in an effort to keep her safe in the treacherous waters.
The pair from El Salvador had washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande river — 23-month-old Valeria’s tiny arm wrapped around her father’s neck — after disappearing together in the strong river currents on Sunday evening.
Óscar’s wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos helplessly watched as the tragedy unfolded before her eyes, according to Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
The heartbreaking photo, which was later published by La Jornada, highlights the cruel realities that many families are currently facing as they put their lives on the line to seek asylum from the violence and poverty in their home nations.
Óscar, 25, was one of those people, opting to take on the treacherous waters after he grew frustrated waiting at the border and was concerned that his family would be unable to apply for asylum due to Donald Trump‘s stance on immigration, the local outlet reports.
Prior to the tragedy, the family of three had been staying at a migrant camp located on the Puerta México bridge for two months, with increasingly unbearable conditions that included lack of food, overcrowding, and temperatures above 110-degrees, according to La Jornada.
After Óscar grew impatient, he departed for the Rio Grande river on Sunday with Tania, 21, and Valeria. He crossed the waters — first with his daughter in his arms, successfully reaching the U.S. side of the river.
Óscar then left Valeria on the mainland and headed back for his wife, but it was in that moment that his daughter began to panic watching her father leave and jumped into the rocky waters after him, the outlet reports.
Óscar instantly turned back for his daughter and was able to keep her close by tucking her into the back of his shirt, but his efforts were sadly not enough, as the current pulled them both downward.
WARNING: Graphic photograph below may be distressing to some readers.
Tania, who remained on land throughout the incident, sadly had to watch as her husband and child slowly disappeared from her view. The father and daughter’s bodies were not recovered until 12 hours later when they washed up on shore, according to the outlet.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Óscar’s mother Rosa Ramírez said her son fought until the very end to give his family a better life, despite her apprehension.
“When [Valeria] 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,” she recalled to AP. “He put her in his shirt, and I imagine he told himself, ‘I’ve come this far’ and decided to go with her.”
“I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a home,” Rosa added to the outlet. “They hoped to be there a few years and save up for the house.”
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According to AP, El Salvador’s foreign ministry said they were currently working to help Óscar’s family, including Tania, who was put up in a border migrant shelter after the tragic incident.
Óscar and Valeria’s bodies are expected to be flown to El Salvador on Thursday, the outlet reports.
Trump’s administration has been particularly focused on cracking down on immigration since taking office in 2017. There has been significant criticism directed at the president suggesting his policies are putting migrants at risk.