The father and daughter who drowned at the border were desperate for a better life, family says
Valeria was a cheery child. Not even 2 years old, she loved to dance, play with her stuffed animals and brush her family members’ hair. Her father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, was stalwart. Nearly always working, he sold his motorcycle and borrowed money to move his family from El Salvador to the United States. Martínez and his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, wanted to save up for a home there. They wanted safety, opportunity.
“They wanted a better future for their girl,” María Estela Ávalos, Vanessa’s mother, told The Washington Post.
They traveled more than 1,000 miles seeking it. Once in the United States, they planned to ask for asylum, for refuge from the violence that drives many Central American migrants from their home countries every day. But the farthest the family got was an international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. On Sunday, they were told the bridge was closed and that they should return Monday. Aid workers told The Post the line to get across the bridge was hundreds long.
The young family was desperate. Standing on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, America looked within reach. Martínez and Valeria waded in. But before they all made it to the other side, to Brownsville, Tex., the river waters pulled the 25-year-old and his daughter under and swept them away.
The next day, a photo of their bodies among matted reeds, locked in a final embrace, was published by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada and later by the Associated Press, shocking the world with a viscerally clear moment of desperation reminiscent of a 2015 photograph showing a 3-year-old Syrian boy who lay drowned on a calm Mediterranean shore.
Martínez and Valeria were met by twin disasters: fast-moving waters and an asylum system unprepared for the crush of Central Americans fleeing crime and poverty.
As the image rocketed across social media, it became a symbol of the large-scale humanitarian crisis at the border and, for some, a condemnation of the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies. One of those policies, the U.S. customs practice known as “metering,” has drastically reduced the number of migrants allowed to request asylum each day.
“This particular incident highlights that there are many humanitarian tragedies resulting directly from our current immigration and border enforcement policies that are entirely unnecessary,” said Woodson Martin of Team Brownsville, a nonprofit group that travels to Matamoros every day to hand out food and water to waiting migrants. “We as a people are culpable in this, and we need to fix it.”
Source The father and daughter who drowned at the border