Beto O'Rourke Says Donald Trump Is Responsible for Deaths of Migrant Father and Daughter Who Died Trying to Cross Rio Grande

A haunting photo of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down, drowned, in the Rio Grande River has brought the reality of the perils that thousands of migrants face each year trying to make it across the U.S. border to the fore.

In the image, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, lie face down in shallow water along the bank of the Rio Grande. The toddler appears to have been tucked under her father's shirt, her arm still wrapped around his neck.

According to Le Duc, Martínez's family, who had made the journey to the U.S.-Mexico border from El Salvador, had decided to try to swim across the Rio Grande in Matamoros in the Mexican state of Coahuila to reach U.S. shores. They had previously struggled to make an asylum request with American immigration authorities.

Trump is responsible for these deaths. As his administration refuses to follow our laws -- preventing refugees from...

Posted by Beto O'Rourke on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Martínez and his daughter had reportedly made it safely to the U.S. side of the river at first, but when the father turned back to help his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, across the river, Valeria jumped after him into the water.

The father was able to reach his daughter, but the pair were swept away by the river's current, Le Duc said.

While Martínez and Valeria may have died by drowning, 2020 presidential contender Beto O'Rourke has said that ultimately, it was not the river that killed them: "Trump is responsible for these deaths," O'Rourke said on Tuesday in a Facebook post mourning the loss.

"As his administration refuses to follow our laws—preventing refugees from presenting themselves for asylum at our ports of entry—they cause families to cross between ports, ensuring greater suffering and death. At the expense of our humanity, not to the benefit of our safety," the former Texas representative said.

So far, it is unclear how many migrants have died while trying to make the often-perilous journey across the U.S.-Mexico border, from the Sonoran Desert to the Rio Grande. Last year, a total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded, according to The Associated Press.

In recent weeks, U.S. immigration officials have seen a spate of deaths at the border, with two babies, a toddler and a woman found dead by the Rio Grande River southeast of the Anzalduas Park by Border Patrol agents on Sunday.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency also notified the public on Monday that its agents had separately recovered three other bodies near Carrizo Springs and Eagle Pass within the span of two days.

In one case, on June 19, agents from the Carrizo Springs Station had located a deceased man after being dispatched to a local ranch following an anonymous call regarding a "lost undocumented immigrant."

On June 20, CBP said, agents at the same station found a second deceased male after receiving a second anonymous call suggesting that a suspected undocumented immigrant was at a local ranch near Carrizo Springs.

In the third case, also on June 20, Eagle Pass Border Patrol marine agents, conducting riverine operations, discovered the remains of a decomposed body on the Rio Grande riverbank near Normandy, CBP said. The remains were recovered by the Eagle Pass Fire Department and turned over to the custody of Maverick County authorities.

While it is not yet clear how the three individuals died, Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz said: "The extreme temperatures during this time of year can be fatal for anyone attempting to avoid detection by illegally crossing the remote areas of our border."

Newsweek has contacted CBP for comment for this article.

rio grande deaths
Salvadoran father and daughter Oscar Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande in Matamoros,state of Coahuila on June 24, 2019. STR/AFP/Getty