‘I told him not to follow the American dream,’ mother of Salvadoran migrant who drowned

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A heartbreaking photo of Salvadoran migrant, Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down on the banks of the Rio Grande river between the U.S and Mexico went viral on social media yesterday and triggered new debate in the U.S about the plight of migrants. The photo has long drawn global attention.

Oscar Alberto Martinez , 25, had become frustrated that his family was not able to request asylum from US authorities at a migrant camp in Mexico so he decided to swim across the fast-moving river, carrying his daughter in desperate attempt to cross the border illegally into the United States. He suffered tragic consequence, and has become a global symbol of the dangers of migration.

The image of Oscar and Valeria, nestled beside her father with her arm draped around his neck, drew comparisons to an iconic 2015 shot of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee, whose body washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean. Read our earlier post about the incident through this link.

Speaking with Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa on Tuesday, Oscar’s mother, Rosa Ramirez, choked back tears as she cradled photographs of the pair.

“I told him not to follow the American dream,” she said, citing the dangers of such migration.

“Sadly what you all know happened. We are appealing to God because he is the only one who gives us strength.”

Rosa Ramirez, mother of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, a migrant who drowned in the Rio Grande River with his daughter Valeria during their journey to the U.S., is pictured at her house in the Altavista neighborhood in San Martin, El Salvador June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Oscar left El Salvador April 3 with his wife and little daughter despite his mother’s warning, hoping to find work in the United States and eventually buy a house, Ramirez said.

The U.N. refugee agency said the photo from the U.S. border represents “a failure to address the violence and desperation pushing people to take journeys of danger.”

Many migrants such as Oscar and his daughter face long waits to apply for asylum at the United States’ shared border with Mexico as U.S. officials enforce a policy of “metering,” which limits the number of people who can apply each day.

That system has contributed to increasing numbers of migrants crossing the border illegally to hand themselves into authorities and ask for asylum.


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