US immigration: Drowning exposes risks of illegal crossing

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Warning: This article contains a distressing image

(Excerpts from BBC) El Salvador’s government has warned people against risking their lives to reach the US after a man and his baby daughter drowned in the Rio Grande.

The bodies were found after a search by Mexican police along the Rio Grande (EPA/BBC)

Photos of their bodies, found face down in shallow water with the 23-month-old girl’s arm around her father’s neck, have sparked condemnation.

It comes as the US and Mexico implement tougher policies to stem the flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, travelling north.

At least six have died in recent days.

Many of the migrants say they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and plan to seek asylum in the US.

Critics of President Donald Trump’s tougher stance on immigration say his approach is driving migrants to take more dangerous routes.

At least 283 migrants died on the US-Mexico border in 2018, according to US Border Patrol, but human rights activists say the number is likely to be higher.

Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his daughter Valeria drowned on Sunday while trying to cross from Matamoros, in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, into Texas.

The image, which surfaced on Monday, was captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

His wife and the daughter’s mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, said they had been living in Mexico for two months on a humanitarian visa, AP news agency reports.

The father and daughter were reportedly swept away by the Rio Grande’s dangerous current (BBC/EPA)

Frustrated after being unable to present themselves to US officials and seek asylum, they had decided to cross the river.

Mr Ramírez managed to get across with their daughter and set her down on the bank, then began returning for his wife, she told Mexican police.

But alone on the riverbank, Valeria panicked and jumped in after her father. He made it back to her but both were swept away by the river’s dangerous currents.

“I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together  to get money to build a home,” Rosa Ramírez, Óscar’s mother, told AP.