Crossing the Rio Grande has long been one of the many deadly hurdles migrants face as they try to enter the United States.
But a photograph published online Monday by a Mexican newspaper served as a jarring reminder of the journey’s perils: the bodies of a man and his 23-month-old daughter floating face down on the banks near Brownsville, Texas. The girl is tucked under his shirt, her arm wrapped around his neck.
The photograph, captured by reporter Julia Le Duc and published on La Jornada’s front page Tuesday, drew widespread attention as an image of yet another death along the border at a time when migrants, particularly families from Central America, have arrived in increasing numbers.
“I know our hearts can’t take more,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said on Twitter. “We must keep fighting for the dignity & humanity of these vulnerable souls.”
She added, “Maintain your humanity in the face of horror.”
When asked about the photograph, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said it was “very regrettable that this would happen,” according to The Associated Press.
“We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing” the river, he said Tuesday.
Some used the image as a rallying cry for immigration reform. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said people should not look away from the photograph.
“These are the consequences of Donald Trump’s inhumane and immoral immigration policy,” he said on Twitter. “This is being done in our name.”
La Jornada, a newspaper based in Mexico City, identified the migrants in the photograph as Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, from El Salvador.
Martínez’s wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, told La Jornada that they had been waiting at a camp in Matamoros, on the Mexican side of a bridge that connects the city to Brownsville, for two months to present their asylum claims to United States officials. On Sunday, they decided to cross the river on their own.
Martínez had taken his daughter in his arms, crossed the river and put her on dry land, Ávalos said. When Martínez went back for his wife, she said, Valeria jumped into the water. When he tried to rescue her, both were pulled under.
Ávalos said that she alerted the authorities, and that a search began. The authorities found the bodies about 12 hours later, about 550 yards away from where they sank.
Migrants from Central America have crossed the border by the thousands in recent months, overwhelming Border Patrol agents, nonprofit groups and local officials.
The surge has shown how deadly the journey can be, both in the Rio Grande and beyond. Harsh desert conditions and a lack of water spur dehydration or heat stroke.
Many migrants cannot swim, and Border Patrol agents said this month that they were pulling dozens of migrants, including children, from the river almost every day.
From Oct. 1 to early June, Border Patrol agents rescued at least 315 migrants from a 209-mile stretch of the Rio Grande — up from 12 migrants the year before.
But there have also been tragedies.
In May, a 10-month-old boy died after a raft carrying migrants overturned on the Rio Grande.
In Hidalgo County, on the border, sheriff’s officials reported 27 migrant waterway deaths last year, an increase from 13 in 2017.