They died seeking the American dream—and their photo is now being used to illustrate the dangers migrants face. A heartbreaking image of a Salvadoran father and his young daughter, who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande on Sunday, was captured Monday by journalist Julia Le Duc and published in Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the AP reports. Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, frustrated after he was unable to apply for asylum, drowned along with 23-month-old daughter Valeria, reports the New York Times. She was found tucked inside his shirt with her arm around his neck. His wife remained on the Mexican side of the river. The family, who spent two months in a shelter in Mexico after leaving El Salvador, had arrived in Matamoros, Mexico, earlier that day.
In Washington, lawmakers opposed to the administration's harsh border policies said they hoped the disturbing image would make a difference. "It's very hard to see that photograph," says Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas. "It’s our version of the Syrian photograph—of the 3-year-old boy on the beach, dead. That’s what it is." Le Duc tells the Guardian that Ramirez attempted the crossing after he was told the American migration office was closed that day and there would be an extremely long wait for an asylum interview when it reopened. After they were swept away, a search was launched Sunday, though their bodies weren't found until the next morning. "I was drawn to the girl's arm on her father," Le Duc says. "It was something that moved me in the extreme because it reflects that until her last breath, she was joined to him not only by the shirt but also in that embrace in which they passed together into death." (Read more migrants stories.)