Deaths of Father, Daughter in Rio Grande the Result of Inhumane Border Policies

In response to the photo published last night of the drowned father and daughter in the Rio Grande, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz issued the following statement: 

Refugees International is shocked and dismayed to see the photo of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria from El Salvador, who drowned in the Rio Grande when trying to cross into the United States to obtain refuge.

But we are more than shocked; we are also outraged. The policies now being pursued by the Trump administration—instructing Mexico to forcibly prevent migrants from seeking asylum, and turning asylum seekers away at U.S. ports of entry and making them wait for long periods without resources in northern Mexico before having their stories heard—are leaving families in danger, desperate, and without safe pathways. To make things worse, Trump’s rhetoric is creating an environment of hostility toward families seeking a safer life.  

Óscar and Valeria were not the only people forced into danger due to U.S. border policies. As the New York Times reports, on Sunday, two babies, a child and a woman were found dead in the Rio Grande Valley. A toddler from India was found dead in Arizona earlier in June. And two months ago, the Rio Grande claimed the lives of three children and an adult from Honduras after their raft overturned.

Many people are shaken to the core by the picture, and ask what they can do. We urge everyone to call their representatives and senators and express support for legislation that will provide safe pathways for Central American families and uphold the U.S. obligation to provide refuge and asylum. It’s time to implement humane border policies that discourage dangerous crossings and increase capacity for processing asylum claims in a timely manner. It’s time to recognize that the factors causing families to flee north are complicated and multifaceted and deserve a thoughtful, regional approach to addressing them.

We join the voices of so many calling for the meaningful provision of asylum and safety, so that pictures like the one circulating online need never be taken again.

For press inquiries, please contact Chris Allbritton at or +1 305 741 9886.