This past week, a father and his daughter were found dead on the banks of the Rio Grande River. The photo, while disturbing and heartbreaking, is important for all Americans to see for themselves.
The crisis at the border isn’t the “invasion” purported by the Trump administration, it’s a humanitarian crisis. The vast majority of migrants trying to seek entry to America aren’t gang members, drug dealers, or rapists. They’re human refugees seeking asylum from the danger, corruption, and poor economic opportunities of their native countries.
Oscar Martínez, his wife Tania, and their barely 2-year-old daughter, Valeria, began their 1000+ mile journey from El Salvador. Before leaving El Salvador, the mother and father sold off what belongings they could to help facilitate their journey and build a small nest egg. They borrowed money from loved ones with the hope of one day buying a home in America.
After making their way through Central America and Mexico, they eventually were within site of a U.S. port of entry. When they arrived, they saw that the bridge leading to the port of entry was packed with hundreds of other migrants. The human gridlock is due to a Trump administration policy known as “metering,” which took effect in May 2018. This policy essentially blocks a significant number of asylum seekers from entering the U.S. The administration claims they don’t have the resources to process asylum seekers, which then delays, prevents, or deters them from entering the U.S.
In an act of desperation –having travelled so far and having what they envisioned as the promised land in sight– the father decided to circumvent the metering blockade. He and his daughter began wading in the waters of the Rio Grande, making their way to the Texas-side of the river.
They initially made it safely across, but the father needed to go back for the mother who was waiting on the Mexican side. He left his daughter on American soil and began making his way to his wife. When his daughter saw him go back in the water, she instinctively went in after him. The father was able to get a hold of his daughter, but the current was too strong for him to make it back to safety. The river took their lives. Their bodies washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande. A photographer from the Associated Press was able to capture the tragic image.
This heartbreaking story is a microcosm for what’s happening at our southern border. The family was so desperate to make it to America, they literally died trying. And the mother is now a widow and childless. They were searching for safety, basic human rights, and opportunity, but it ended in tragedy.
This family didn’t fit the derogatory and dehumanizing language often used by Trump. They weren’t gang members, drug traffickers, or rapists. They were a family who happened to be born and raised in a country that lacks the ability of ensuring the most basic and universal of human rights. They didn’t want to live like that anymore; they didn’t want their daughter to live and come of age in a place like that.
We used to be a country that welcomed immigrants. The founding fathers were descended from immigrants. The very first migrants came to America in search of religious freedom.
The European immigration boom of the 19th and early-20th centuries was triggered by oppressive governments and the lack of economic opportunity, among other tribulations –the very same reasons that motivated Oscar and Tania to come to America with their daughter.
Donald Trump didn’t kill Oscar and Valeria, but his rhetoric and policies undoubtedly contributed to their fate. He uses dehumanizing rhetoric to refer to “illegal aliens.” His administration separates parents from their children. Once separated, the innocent children are treated with no care or compassion.
The photograph of Oscar and Valeria is disturbing to look at, but it’s important for Americans to see the consequences of their government’s actions. If the people don’t speak out about the atrocities, they will continue to happen. We’ve seen through modern history how impactful photographs can be. Hopefully, the photo of Oscar and Valeria will have that effect and their deaths won’t be in vain.