Trump decision slammed as 'direct cause' of family's drowning death at the border

1609

A father and his very young daughter drowned to death after Trump's cruel policies pushed them to desperation.

Trump's draconian and bigoted border policies were likely to blame for the drowning deaths of a father and daughter seeking asylum in the U.S., advocates and analysts said Wednesday.

Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria died on Sunday as they tried to cross the Rio Grande and seek refuge from violence in El Salvador. Ramírez's wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, looked on as her family was swept away.

"They wanted a better future for their girl," Ávalos' mother, María Estela Ávalos, told The Washington Post.

After the family was turned away at the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico, desperation drove them to try to cross the river, where Ramírez and Valeria were swept up in a strong current and drowned. A heartbreaking photo of their bodies, with Valeria's arm still draped around her father's neck, has circulated around the world.

The Mexican newspaper Jornada reported that prior to their crossing attempt, the family had been stuck in a migrant camp in Mexico for two months waiting for an appointment to make their asylum case to the Trump administration.

Temperatures topped 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the camp, according to Jornada — and U.S. agents only granted an average of three asylum appointments a week when often thousands of migrants were waiting to be seen.

"This particular incident highlights that there are many humanitarian tragedies resulting directly from our current immigration and border enforcement policies that are entirely unnecessary," Woodson Martin, of the non-profit migrant assistance group Team Brownsville, told the Washington Post.

"The direct cause of the death of that father and daughter is the metering policy at the bridge."

The Trump administration has changed the asylum-seeking process with a procedure called "metering" that drastically limits the number of asylum claims allowed at any one time.

"In 2018, as metering took effect and the number of families entering ports of entry without paperwork has held steady or even dropped, the number of families caught crossing between ports of entry skyrocketed," Vox reported on Tuesday.

Metering represents a change in policy from the Obama administration, and is just one of many ways in which Trump is hostile to migrants.

Maureen Meyer, an immigration specialist at the Washington Office on Latin America, told AP the photo of the family "speaks so clearly to the real risks of these U.S. programs that are either returning people back to Mexico seeking asylum or in this case limiting how many people can enter the U.S. every day."

Asked about the photo on Wednesday, Trump was dismissive and dishonest.

"If they changed the laws you wouldn’t have that," he told reporters.

But Trump is the one who made changes with deadly consequences.

Trump has been openly racist toward Latino immigrants, launching his presidential campaign in 2015 by describing Mexicans as "rapists." He has repeatedly overseen cruel policies like child separation and a border wall, while empowering anti-immigrant ideologues like Stephen Miller.

Children are dying both while crossing the border and while being mistreated in detention centers. Trump's policies, rhetoric, and personnel choices — all rooted in deep-seated bigotry — are killing children and destroying families.

Published with permission of The American Independent.