Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an interview with CNN on Thursday night that a heartbreaking photograph of a migrant father from El Salvador and his 23-month-old daughter who drowned on the banks of the Rio Grande was tragic, but that it was ultimately father’s fault they died.
“The reason we have tragedies like that on the border is because those folks, that father didn’t want to wait to go through the asylum process in the legal fashion, so decided to cross the river and not only died but his daughter died tragically as well,” Cuccinelli told CNN.
“Until we fix the attractions in our asylum system, people like that father and that child are going to continue to come through a dangerous trip,” he continued.
According to local media reports, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez had attempted to swim across the river with his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria and wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, out of desperation after his family was unable to request asylum in the United States.
Óscar was able to swim across the river safely with his daughter at first. But as he swam back to help his wife cross, his wife told local media that his daughter jumped into the water after him.
Ávalos said her husband died trying to save their daughter after getting trapped in a strong current.
The now-viral photo, which was captured on Monday by journalist Julia Le Duc in Matamoros, Mexico, has since prompted a wave of backlash against the Trump administration and the president’s hard-line immigration policies.
Ken Cuccinelli blames drowned man in border photograph for his 2 yr old daughter’s death, saying he should have sought asylum legally.
— Holly Figueroa O’Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) June 28, 2019