As a heartbreaking photo of a drowned Salvadoran father and daughter in the Rio Grande near the U.S.-Mexico border spreads across mainstream media, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) warns it’s a dangerous journey.
Some critics put the blame on President Donald Trump for every mishap and tragedy that happens at the border, yet in defense, Graham said it was not the president’s fault that people are dying trying to cross into the United States, and thinks it’s “disgusting” that people are shifting the blame to the president.
“I hate it very much that this father and daughter died, but they should stay in their country. We should help them in their country. This journey they are taking is very dangerous. So to my Democratic colleagues, if we don’t change our law, we are going to have millions of people overrunning our border, and what are you going to do about that?” Graham told Fox News host Martha MacCullum on June 26 with a solemn and concerned demeanor.
“People from Central America are being enticed to come here in record numbers,” Graham said. “We doubled the number of people who came this year versus last year at this stage of last year, and we are going to double that again. We are going to spend four point-something billion to deal with the humanitarian crisis.”
“Here’s our law,” Graham continued. “If you get one foot in the United States, you claim asylum, you are entitled to a hearing. The hearing is like three years away. People don’t show up. If you bring a small child, we can only hold the child for 20 days. We don’t want to separate families, so we let the entire family unit go. Word is out that if you bring a small child to the United States and ask for asylum, you are never going to be sent back. You stay in America forever. Until we change that law, nothing changes.”
“And it leads to some of the tragedies that we are seeing,” MacCallum responded.
The photo of the man and his 23-month-old child with her head tucked under his shirt and arm around his neck as if she were clutching him, lying face down on a riverbank was initially published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
The two were identified as Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria. Martinez and his wife and child were trying to make it across the border from Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, on June 23 to claim asylum.
The photo of the two can be seen here. Warning: It is a graphic image.
The man left his daughter on the riverbank to help his wife cross. The girl threw herself into the water going after them. He swam back for her, tucked her into his shirt when both were then swept away by heavy currents, and both drowned, The Associated Press reported.
Photos like these draw the world’s attention to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border, often serving as a reminder and warning of the devastating effect that fleeing poverty or a hostile environment can have on children and families.
However, fleeing poverty would not be a qualifying marker to be granted asylum in the United States. The Associated Press reported that Martínez and his family were migrating to the United States for economic reasons.
In fiscal year 2018, there were 283 deaths reported at the U.S. southern border. Nearly 100 of them were reported in the Rio Grande Valley, according to U.S. Border Patrol.