A shocking photograph of a Salvadoran man and his baby daughter drowned in the Rio Grande fueled a surge of emotion around the world Wednesday — as US Democrats furiously denounced Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“Trump is responsible for these deaths,” said Beto O’Rourke, one of several Democratic White House hopefuls who took to Twitter to lash out at the president.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who is also seeking the presidency in 2020, called the image “gut-wrenching.”
“History will judge how we respond to the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrant families & children — we can’t be silent,” he said.
Trump retaliated by seeking to pin the blame on Democrats in Congress, saying “if we had the right laws, that the Democrats are not letting us have, those people wouldn’t be coming up, they wouldn’t be trying.
“They want to have open borders and open borders mean crime, and open borders mean people drowning in the rivers,” Trump told reporters.
The intertwined bodies in the viral photo are those of asylum-seeker Oscar Alberto Martinez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria. They drowned Sunday while trying to cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas, while the child’s mother watched helplessly from the river bank.
For many, the image evoked memories of a 2015 picture of a Syrian toddler drowned on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt to reach Greece.
Speaking to AFP from her home in San Salvador, Oscar’s grief-stricken mother, Rosa Ramirez, said her son dreamed of a better life for his baby daughter.
“They only wanted to get to the United States…. they had this American dream,” she said.
In Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also came under fire, accused by critics of putting vulnerable migrants in dangerous situations by making it hard for them to cross the country to request US asylum.
Lopez Obrador came to power in Mexico vowing to safeguard migrants’ rights, but faced with a tariff threat from Trump he agreed to crack down on undocumented Central Americans trekking toward the United States.
He responded by saying he has a “clear conscience.” “We believe it is necessary to maintain good relations with the United States government, to avoid confrontation,” he said.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, another 2020 candidate, described the photo as “horrific.”
“It is just one painful example of so many that demonstrate the reckless disregard for basic humanity that have come from Trump’s policies,” Sanders said.
California Senator Kamala Harris, also running for the White House, called Trump’s immigration policies “inhumane.” “Children are dying. This is a stain on our moral conscience,” she said.
– Pope saddened by deaths –
Pope Francis added his voice to the global wave of indignation.
“The Pope is profoundly saddened by their death, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” said Alessandro Gisotti, a Vatican spokesman.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York displayed the picture on the Senate floor during a speech on Wednesday.
“How could President Trump look at this picture and not understand that these are human beings fleeing violence and persecution?” Schumer asked.
“We can do something about this if the president would stop playing the political game of blame, blame, blame,” he said.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill on Wednesday providing $4.6 billion in emergency humanitarian aid for the southwest border but it must now be reconciled with a version passed by the Democratic-held House.
Once the differences are worked out the bill will go to Trump for his signature.
The photo comes amid a public outcry in the United States over the poor detention conditions of migrant children following a visit to a Border Patrol center in Clint, Texas, by a group of lawyers and doctors.
Nearly 250 children were transferred out of Clint on Monday but a Customs and Border Protection official said that some 100 were being sent back there.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said Wednesday she was “deeply concerned for the wellbeing of migrant children at the US-Mexico border.”
“Having already faced perilous journeys, some children are now being sheltered at facilities that are not equipped to meet the needs of this vulnerable population,” Fore said in a statement.
“This is a dire situation requiring urgent action and funding to provide children and families with essential services and support.”
Border Patrol officials say they are overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees at the seeking to cross the southern US border.
Arrivals of undocumented migrants have surged in recent months, with 144,000 taken into custody in May alone.
Former Fox & Friends co-host Clayton Morris flees the US as he faces two dozen lawsuits
Facing more than two-dozen lawsuits alleging he committed real estate fraud, former "Fox & Friends Weekend" co-host Clayton Morris has reportedly fled the United States, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Morris, who previously resided in a $1.4 million home in New Jersey, moved his family to a coastal resort town in Portugal, the newspaper reported, citing a Facebook post from his wife.
Morris's wife and business partner, former MSNBC anchor Natali Morris, told the IndyStar that she and her husband plan to continue fighting the lawsuits from abroad.
Trump defenders argued his latest tweets weren’t really racist — but he just completely undercut their arguments
If you try to defend President Donald Trump, you will always end up having the rug pulled out from underneath you. It's a law of nature.
And yet, so many of the president's allies have failed to learn this simple lesson. So when Trump launched a new attack at progressive Democratic lawmakers that was one of his most obviously racist smears, inevitably, some of his defenders tried to deny the obvious truth.
His screed attacked a group of women who have come to define the left wing of the Democratic caucus, which includes Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Talib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA). Though only Omar is an immigrant (she was a refugee from Somalia as a child), Trump seemed to assume all four women of color weren't born in the United States, and most egregiously, he suggested they should "go back" to other countries:
UK prime minister hopefuls slam Trump tweets — but refuse to call them racist
The two candidates vying to become Britain's next prime minister both condemned on Monday US President Donald Trump's xenophobic tweets about progressive Democrat congresswomen as "totally offensive" and "totally unacceptable".
But front-runner Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt refused to call the tweets racist when pressed to do so during their last debate before next week's announcement of who will succeed Prime Minister Theresa May.
May's spokesman had earlier said that the outgoing leader's view was that Trump's comments were "completely unacceptable".
On Monday Trump doubled down on a series of his tweets from the day before urging the four congresswomen of colour to "go back" to the countries they came from.