Stop Sharing 'Dehumanizing' Photo of Drowned Migrant Father and Daughter, Immigration Groups Say: 'Before They Were Migrants, They Were a Family'

The haunting image of a father and daughter who drowned trying to make it across the Rio Grande River onto U.S. soil has sparked international outrage over the Trump administration's treatment of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But while the photo, which shows Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, lying face down, drowned, in the Rio Grande, has had a powerful impact on the immigration debate, advocacy groups say it is not the one we should be sharing.

Branding the graphic image "dehumanizing" the said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that it would not be publishing the photo, which has been splashed across front pages around the world in the days since it was captured by journalist Julia Le Duc.

Instead, RAICES, said it would be sharing photos of Martínez and his family before the tragic incident to drive home the fact that he and his daughter were more than "just another tragedy" emblematic of the "crisis" at the border.

Posting a photo of Martínez and young Valeria in the arms of her mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, who was there the day her husband and daughter died, RAICES said it was crucial to remember that before "they were migrants, they were a family."

"No less heartbreaking, this photo depicts the family's truth," RAICES said.

"The media wants you to view them as just another tragedy, more [numbers] to rack up migrant deaths. They will show you the graphic image saying it will make people 'care' or 'move them into action.' We think otherwise," the organization said.

"Were they migrants? Yes. But before they were migrants they were a family. A normal family who wanted the best for their children and risked it all in search of refuge and a better life. Here," RAICES said.

"Today we honor that family and pay homage to the countless others who have made the dangerous journey here," the organization continued.

RAICES said it wanted to make "very clear" that the lives of human beings simply in pursuit of a better life are hanging in the balance of the government's anti-immigrant policies and ongoing crackdown at the border.

"We want to make this very clear: Restrictions like 'Remain in Mexico' and the 'Metering' policy, which rejects asylum seekers who come to ports of entry asking for protection, are what caused these deaths and the countless others that occur on the border every day," RAICES said.

"We can no longer stand by as this administration continues to build walls. It's time we build bridges into our society, so that ALL members are afforded their rights and treated with dignity," it said, adding the hashtag "#BuildABridge."

In an article by The New York Times, top editors addressed the decision to run the photo of Martínez and his daughter in the newspaper, with deputy photo editor Beth Flynn saying it is important for readers to "see and understand" what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tom Jolly, the associate masthead editor who oversees The Times' print operations said that the photo also reminded editors of other powerful images that have helped draw world tragedies into greater focus, including the image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed ashore in Greece after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in September 2015. It was that image that forced the plight of refugees fleeing to European countries under the international spotlight.

RAICES, however, was not alone in calling for the media and public to stop circulating the heartbreaking image of Martínez and his daughter drowned in the Rio Grande.

The North Texas Dream Team also took to Facebook to say that instead of "sharing the heart-wrenching image being shared on social media...we will show this father and his baby girl in life."

In addition to wanting the world to remember that the pair were more than just "migrants," the organization said that sharing such a graphic image can also be "beyond triggering" for those who have lost their loved ones to similar journeys or who have made such a journey themselves and could have faced a similar fate.

"We ask our commUNITY to please take note; many of our members, families and community have gone through those same rivers or the lengthy journey so, seeing an image that paints a picture of the fate that many could have faced, and some of our families did face, is beyond triggering," the North Texas Dream Team said.

The organization called on members of the public to also "refrain from sharing the other image of their unjust death, and instead honor them by sharing this image of this beautiful family in life."

Across social media, many have already started to just that, choosing to share photos of the family together, smiling and enjoying precious moments of life together.

Rest In Peace Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria.

— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) June 27, 2019

Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, Valeria,

A father who went to seek asylum and was denied it at the ports of entry by our government. He drowned with his daughter wrapped in his shirt, her arms around his neck trying to find another way.


— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) June 27, 2019

Still, many others have said that the photo of Martínez and Valeria lying drowned in shallow water on the bank of the Rio Grande is not one that Americans should look away from.

"A searing image—hard to view but we should not look away," BBC Correspondent Orla Guerin wrote in a Twitter post sharing the image. "This was Óscar and his daughter Valeria from [El Salvador. She would have been two next month," she wrote.

In an interview with Telemundo, Martínez's mother, Rosa Ramírez, described how her son had "loved his daughter so much" and had hoped to build a better life for her after the family faced financial struggles in El Salvador. "He loved her and that's why he took her," she said.

Martínez and his wife had decided to attempt to cross the Rio Grande out of desperation after being forced to wait two months in Mexico without being able to present themselves to U.S. authorities to request asylum, according to Le Duc.

The journalist said Martínez had first crossed the river with Valeria and set her down on the U.S. side of the bank of the river.

However, when he began to swim back to get his wife, Valeria threw herself into the water after him. The father raced back and was able to grab his daughter, but the two were swept away by the current.

When their bodies were found, Valeria was still tucked into her father's shirt, with her arm wrapped around his neck.

"Neither one of them let each other go," Ramírez said through tears. "That's how they died, both of them hugging."

"You do not wish this on anyone, that for going in search of the American dream you would lose your life," she said.

 Óscar and his daughter Angie Valeria
Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramírez and his young daughter Valeria died trying to cross the Rio Grande River to get to the U.S. after making the journey to the border from El Salvador. North Texas Dream Team