Pope’s migrant drowning anguish

Photos of a migrant father and young daughter who drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico to enter the United States without legal permission have struck the hearts of many world leaders.

The photos show the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who were fleeing from El Salvador which is wracked by violent crime.

In the photos, Ramirez and Valeria are lying face down near the river bank. Valeria’s arm is draped around her father’s neck, suggesting she clung to her father in their final moments.

Valeria’s mother, Tania Vanessa Avalos, was still on the Mexican side of the river and survived.

Pope Francis was “profoundly saddened by their death, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” a Vatican spokesman said.

“This image cries to heaven for justice,” the US bishops’ conference said.

“This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?

“Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must now reach our federal government,” the bishops said.

US President Donald Trump said he was disturbed by the images, but the deaths could have been prevented.

“If we had the right laws, that the Democrats are not letting us have, those people, they wouldn’t be coming up. They wouldn’t be trying,” the president said.

“They can change it very easily so people don’t come up and people won’t get killed.”

A top Republican said the photos should stir Congress to address the crisis on the border.

“This isn’t who we are as a country. We have obligations to humanity that are being completely ignored,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested that Martinez and his daughter might not have died had Trump agreed to Democratic efforts to help migrants fleeing Central American countries to enter the US as refugees.

“How could President Trump look at this picture and not understand that these are human beings fleeing violence and persecution, willing to risk a perilous, sometimes failed journey in search of a better life?” Schumer asked.

The head of the United Nations’ children’s agency also responded to “the heart-rending photo … is a stark reminder of the perils facing migrants trying to reach the US,” he said.

“It is a searing image that should shake each of us to our core,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Fore said she is deeply concerned for the well-being of migrant children at the US-Mexico border. Some are being sheltered in “grim” facilities, she said.

In her opinion, this situation is hard to fathom in the United States which has “such a rich history as a champion for children in need around the world.”


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