Migrant father and daughter drown trying to cross into US

World Today

A story of desperation and tragedy unfolded at the US-Mexico border Wednesday after a young Salvadoran and his daughter lost their lives trying to enter into the United States.

It is one part of the immigration crisis unfolding in a politically charged debate over how to deal with it.

CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports.

The image is difficult to look at, but impossible to ignore. Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, were migrants from El Salvador. They drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande River, Valeria’s arm around her father’s neck – reaching out for protection as they traveled north for a better life. It’s a haunting image and just the latest death as a flood of migrants arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico, fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.

On Sunday, the bodies of a migrant woman in her 20s and three small children were found on the U.S. side of the border. They likely died of dehydration days earlier.

These deaths come as outrage continues to mount over conditions at U.S. detention centers housing children. Attorney Elora Mukherjee interviewed children at a Border Patrol facility.

“The children had no access to soap to wash their hands. Most of the children hadn’t showered for weeks since they had crossed the border. They don’t have regular access to toothbrushes. Some of the children had brushed their teeth for the first time last week because we were there. The children are dirty. They’re wearing the same dirty clothing that they cross the border in.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they are overwhelmed and need more resources, but deny mistreating children.

“We have brought in shower facilities just for this new demographic and for how long were holding them,” Brian Hastings of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency told a U.S. Senate hearing. “We’ve increased our medical contract across the southwest border for medical assessments and medical care. We’ve increased, as I mentioned in my oral statement, the amount of operational funding we’re spending on consumables- diapers, food, formula.”

 Bills have passed in the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate to provide more money to take care of children detained at the border. It’s not clear if either bill will make it to President Trump’s desk, or if he would sign such a measure into law.

 Trump said a long-term fix requires sweeping new immigration restrictions and a border wall to stop the flow of migrants.  

 “The Democrats refused to change the loopholes. They refused to change the asylum. In one hour, we could have it done,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters as he boarded his plane for the G20 Summit in Japan. “They want to have open borders and open borders mean crime and open borders mean people drowning, and it’s a very dangerous thing.”

 In 2015, a photo of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, dead on a beach in Turkey, helped galvanize the humanitarian response to that migrant crisis.

And perhaps this photo of a father and daughter will do the same before the situation grows even worse.

Global migration expert Oscar Chacon discusses the U.S. immigration crisis

CGTN’s Asieh Namdar spoke with Oscar Chacon about Latin American migration and tensions at the border with the U.S.