The haunting lifeless photos of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 23 from El Salvador and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria at the Rio Grande Border Crossing near Tapachula, Mexico, has left the world asking the question, why?
Both father and daughter were found face down laying side by side. The father Oscar with little Valeria tucked into father’s t-shirt. A shocking photo that will not soon be forgotten.
All three Oscar, Valeria and the only survivor, wife and mother Tania Avalos, of El Salvador left their home on April 3rd and made their way via bus to the border town of Tapachula, Mexico. There they were granted humanitarian visas that would allow them to work in Mexico while they waited for the approval of the U.S. asylum visa request and legal entry into the US.
The border town’s between U.S. and Mexico are always jam-packed with migrants attempting legal or illegal immigration in to the U.S. All of course prefer legal entry in to the U.S. but when that fails to produce quick results they will inevitably for lack of work, better options, funds and out of sheer desperation will inevitably attempt this very dangerous and illegal border crossing and head for a better future in the U.S.
The family was not persecuted nor was there a life-threatening motive to escape their (as family back home have stated a very peaceful and happy life) home in El Salvador, other than they were in search of a better financial future.
The goal was to work in the US for about three years and earn enough money in America to purchase a modest family home in El Salvador. Oscar had a modest job in El Salvador, with a modest wage of $350 per month. So, not earning enough money to buy or build a home, it is a commonly known strategy among many poor people in Central American with young families to head for the U.S. to work hard, save money and return.
To many young married couples starting a family and branching out on their own it is a sacrifice they find well worth it. So, after a few years working hard in the US, they will ultimately, go back home and buy or build their family home to raise their children. For this young family that dream wasn’t to be.
On June 23 only one was to remain alive mother and wife, Tania Avalos, was the only survivor of what family members have stated to have been, “a crazy and risky attempt”. Both sets of parents have spoken out as to the dangers of border crossing and state that “they were staunchly against the idea.”
The now widowed wife and mother Tania Avalos, 24 witnessed as her loved ones were taken by the dangerous River crossing and lived to bear testimony of their end, as her beloved husband Oscar and their dear baby Valeria were swept away by the violent currents of the Rio Grande and to their untimely deaths.
Tania was found by Border Patrol screaming at the rivers edge on the Mexican side of the river not knowing what to do as all she loved in the world was taken from her.
Her husband Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez crossed the rapid flowing rough waters of the Rio Grande first with his little 23 month old daughter Valeria and left her on the American side of the river. He then dove back in the river waters to help his wife Tania cross when the little girl (Valeria) jumped back in the water after her dad and was swiftly and mercilessly swept away by the powerful river currents. Her father Oscar in a panic went after his little Valeria (daughter) to save her and it appeared that he bravely swam to her and caught his baby girl, having found her tucked inside her father’s t-shirt the next day on the rivers edge. Sadly both were overcome by the deadly river waters and both were found to have succumb to the river’s unforgiving and deadly force.
The bodies of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 23 and his little Valeria one-month shy of her 2nd birthday were found clothed and side by side dead.
Statistics of Border Crossing Deaths
Migrant deaths along the Mexico–U.S. border occur hundreds of times a year because of those attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico illegally. The US Border Patrol reported 294 migrant deaths in the fiscal year 2017 (ending September 30, 2017), which was lower than in 2016 (322), and any year during the period 2003-2014. Exposure (including heat stroke, dehydration, and hyperthermia) were the leading cause.
The group Border Angels estimates that since 1994, about 10,000 people have died in their attempt to cross border. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 7,216 people have died crossing the U.S–Mexico border between 1998 and 2017. In 2005, more than 500 died across the entire U.S.–Mexico border. The number of yearly border crossing deaths doubled from 1995 to 2005, before declining. The statistics reflect only known deaths and do not include those who have never been found.
Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs has compiled data including deaths on the Mexican side of the border area during the period from 1994 to 2000. The data shows 87 deaths in 1996, 149 in 1997, 329 in 1998, 358 in 1999, and 499 in 2000.
U.S. Border Patrol reported that 3,221 migrants were rescued in the fiscal year 2017In 2012, the United States Border Patrol found the remains of 463 migrants in the U.S., of which 177 were discovered along the section of the border near Tucson, Arizona. The Rio Grande Valley of South Texas reported 150 migrant remains found, a jump from 2011 due to the increased numbers of Central American migrants.
Trumps Immigration Policy; The Wall and the effects of Border Crossing
Immigration policy and, specifically, illegal immigration to the United States, was a signature issue of U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and his proposed reforms and remarks about this issue generated much publicity. Trump has repeatedly said that some illegal immigrants are criminals.
A hallmark promise of his campaign was To build a substantial wall on the United States-Mexico border, and force Mexico to pay for the wall. Trump has also expressed support for a variety of “limits on legal immigration and guest-worker visas”, including a “pause” on granting green card, which Trump says will “allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages”. Trump’s proposals regarding H-1B visas frequently changed throughout his presidential campaign, but as of late July 2016, he appeared to oppose the H-1B visa program.
As president, Trump imposed a travel ban that prohibited issuing visas to citizens of seven largely-Muslim countries. In response to legal challenges he revised the ban twice, with his third version being upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2018. He attempted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but a legal injunction has allowed the policy to continue while the matter is the subject of legal challenge. He imposed a “zero tolerance” policy to require the arrest of all illegal immigrants caught crossing the border, which resulted in separating children from their families. Tim Cook and 58 other CEOs of major American companies warned of harm from Trump’s immigration policy. The “zero tolerance” policy was reversed in June 2018, but multiple media reports of continued family separations were published in the first half of 2019.
In his first State of the Union address on January 30, 2018, Trump outlined his administration’s four pillars for immigration reform: (1) a path to citizenship for DREAMERS; (2) increased border security funding; (3) ending the diversity visa lottery; and (4) restrictions on family-based immigration. The Four Pillars reinforce Trump’s campaign slogan to “Buy American, Hire American” and 2017 executive order by the same name, and tracks with previously outlined immigration policy priorities.
After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Trump criticized Romney’s immigration policy, saying, “He had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”] At the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump urged Republican politicians not to pass immigration reform, saying immigrants would vote for the Democratic Party and steal American jobs.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump questioned official estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in the United States asserting that the number is in actuality between 30-34,000,000. PolitiFact ruled that his statement was “Pants on Fire”, citing experts who noted that no evidence supported an estimate in that range. For example, the Pew Research Center reported in March 2015 that the number of illegal immigrants overall declined from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.2 million in 2012. The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. labor force ranged from 8.1 million to 8.3 million between 2007-2012, approximately 5% of the U.S. labor force.
In 2015, prior to being elected to the presidency, Trump proposed rolling back birthright citizenship for U.S.–born children of illegal immigrants (whom many refer to as “anchor babies”). Under the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, all persons born on U.S. soil and subject to its jurisdiction are citizens. The mainstream view of the Fourteenth Amendment among legal experts is that everyone born on U.S. soil, regardless of parents’ citizenship, is automatically an American citizen, so long as the parents are not foreign diplomats. President Donald Trump said on October 30, 2018 that he intends to remove, by means of an executive order, the right of citizenship to people born in the U.S. to foreign nationals.
Changes to legal immigration
The Trump administration embraced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (Raise) Act in August 2017. The RAISE Act seeks to reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year and would end the visa diversity lottery. A study by Penn Wharton economists found that the legislation would by 2027 “reduce GDP by 0.7 percent relative to current law and reduce jobs by 1.3 million. By 2040, GDP will be about 2 percent lower and jobs will fall by 4.6 million. Despite changes to population size, jobs and GDP, there is very little change to per capita GDP, increasing slightly in the short run and then eventually falling.”
Kathryn Steinle was killed in July 2015 by an illegal immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who had multiple convictions and had been previously deported on five occasions. During the election campaign, Trump promised to ask Congress to pass Kate’s Law, named after her, to ensure that criminal aliens convicted of illegal reentry received strong, mandatory minimum sentences. A Senate version of the bill was previously introduced by Ted Cruz in July 2016, but it failed to pass a cloture motion.
Trump has emphasized U.S. border security and illegal immigration to the United States as a campaign issue. During his announcement speech he stated in part, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” On July 6, 2015, Trump issued a written statement to clarify his position on illegal immigration, which drew a reaction from critics. It read in part:
The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. This was evident just this week when, as an example, a young woman in San Francisco was viciously killed by a 5-time deported Mexican with a long criminal record, who was forced back into the United States because they didn’t want him in Mexico. This is merely one of thousands of similar incidents throughout the United States. In other words, the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world. On the other hand, many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it. But these people are here legally and are severely hurt by those coming in illegally. I am proud to say that I know many hard-working Mexicans—many of them are working for and with me… and, just like our country, my organization is better for it.
A study published in Social Science Quarterly in May 2016 tested Trump’s claim that immigrants are responsible for higher levels of violent and drug-related crime in the United States. It found no evidence that links Mexican or illegal Mexican immigrants specifically to violent or drug-related crime. It did however find a small but significant association between illegal immigrant populations (including non-Mexican illegal immigrants) and drug-related arrests.
Trump has repeatedly pledged to build a wall along the U.S.’s southern border, and has said that Mexico would pay for its construction through increased border-crossing fees and NAFTA tariffs. In his speech announcing his candidacy, Trump pledged to “build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” Trump also said, “nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively.” The concept for building a barrier to keep illegal immigrants out of the U.S. is not new; 670 miles of fencing (about one-third of the border) was erected under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 at a cost of $2.4 billion. Trump said later that his proposed wall would be “a real wall. Not a toy wall like we have now.” In his 2015 book, Trump cites the Israeli West Bank Barrier as a successful example of a border wall. “Trump has at times suggested building a wall across the nearly 2,000-mile border and at other times indicated more selective placement.” After a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on August 31, 2016, Trump said that they “didn’t discuss” who would pay for the border wall that Trump has made a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Nieto contradicted that later that day, saying that he at the start of the meeting “made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall”. Later that day, Trump reiterated his position that Mexico will pay to build an “impenetrable” wall on the Southern border.
Trump has also called for tripling the number of Border Patrol agents.
John Cassidy of the New Yorker wrote that Trump is “the latest representative of an anti-immigrant, nativist American tradition that dates back at least to the Know-Nothings” of the 1840s and 1850s. Trump says “it was legal immigrants who made America great,” that the Latinos who have worked for him have been “unbelievable people”, and that he wants a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to have a “big, beautiful door” for people to come legally and feel welcomed in the United States.
Despite campaign promises to build a full wall, Trump later stated that he favors putting up some fences.
In August 2017, the transcript of the January 2017 phone call between President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was leaked; in the phone call, Trump conceded that he would fund the border wall, not by charging Mexico as he promised during the campaign, but through other ways. But Trump implored the Mexican President to stop saying publicly that the Mexican Government would not pay for the border wall.
On September 12, 2017, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke would be waiving “certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements” to begin construction of the new wall near Calexico, Callefornia. The waiver allows the Department of Homeland Security to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Noise Control Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Antiquities Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The state of California, some environmental groups, and Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz) filed suit challenging the waivers granted to permit the building of a border wall. On February 27, 2018, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel ruled that under federal law the administration has the authority to waive multiple environmental laws and regulations in order to expedite the construction of border walls and other infrastructure, so that wall construction can proceed.
June 27, 2019