The migrant father and his toddler daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande on Sunday left their home in El Salvador three months ago in search of a better life and tried to cross the fatal river after arriving at the border to find the consulate closed because it a weekend.
Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, died on Sunday after being swept away by the current.
They left El Salvador on April 3 and spent two months in a migrant camp in southern Mexico, awaiting news about their asylum application to the US, before they decided to take a bus to the border on Sunday to speed up their case.
When they arrived, the consulate was closed, but they also learned that they had a list of hundreds of migrants waiting in line for interviews.
They decided to make the crossing illegal instead of waiting and at the same time reached their death.
Oscar had carried Valeria across the Matamoros River in Mexico to the banks of the river in Brownsville, Texas, and had turned around to take his wife, 21-year-old Tania Vanessa Ávalos, from the other side.
Valeria, who did not want to stay alone on the banks, jumped back into the water when she saw her father come back in and the couple was caught up in the current.
A frightening photo of their body showed how Oscar had put his daughter in his t-shirt to try and stop her.
Her small arm was still draped around his neck, an indication of how she had clung to him until the last moments of her life. Tania saw them being dragged into the water on Sunday and warned the authorities.
Now their family have shared details about why they left El Salvador in April.
Oscar worked in a Papa Johns pizza restaurant, where he earned $ 350 a month.
Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, died on Sunday after being swept away by the current
Oscar had put Valeria in his t-shirt to prevent her from drifting away from him. He had dropped her on the American side of the Rio Grande and had returned to get Tania, still on the Mexican side, but Valeria jumped into the water after him and the pair was swept away
The family arrived in Matamoros on Sunday after boarding a bus in southern Mexico. They went straight to the International Bridge and tried to get an appointment to discuss their asylum case, but it was closed and they learned that there were hundreds of people in front of them, so they tried to cross themselves and were wiped out
They lived off his wages, limiting themselves to $ 10 a day because Tania had already given up her job as a cashier in a Chinese restaurant to take care of Valeria, their only child.
The family lived with her mother in a residential complex.
I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape money to build a house
Rosa Ramirez, Oscar's mother
They were not fleeing violence, Tania & # 39; s mother said since then, but were desperately looking for a life in which they could earn more.
Their plan was to spend a few years in America to save enough money to eventually return to El Salvador and buy their own home.
& # 39; I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape money to build a house.
& # 39; They hoped to be there for a few years and save for the house & # 39 ;, Rosa Ramirez, Oscar's mother, told The Associated Press.
Determined to eventually come to the US, they left Altavista in the San Martin area on April 3 to go to Mexico.
There they received a humanitarian visa in Tapachula, which allowed them to work there for a year while waiting for news about their asylum application in the US.
The family lived in El Salvador on Oscar & # 39; s wage of $ 350 a month, but was struggling
Valeria & # 39; s mother Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, left, had quit her job in a Chinese restaurant to take care of her full time
The poignant photos of their bodies, with Valeria's arm still around her father's neck, emerged Monday as a symbol of the worsening migrant crisis at the border
Tania Vanessa Ávalos from El Salvador speaks to the Mexican authorities after her husband and daughter were swept away by the current while trying to cross the Rio Grande to Brownsville
Tania Vanessa Ávalos (center) is assisted by the Mexican authorities after her husband and daughter were swept away by a strong current
After two months in southern Mexico, with no prospect of legal entry from the US, the family decided to head to the border to bring their case forward.
According to Oscar & # 39; s parents, who were in constant contact with them when they were in Mexico, someone told him that & # 39; easy & # 39; would be to cross illegally if you had to.
They boarded a bus to Matamoros and came directly to the International Bridge on Sunday to try to plead their case, but they were discouraged when they arrived to find the office closed because it was a weekend.
They were also told that they probably had to wait weeks or even months for their appointment because so many other families were standing in front of them.
According to Julia Le Duc, the journalist who photographed their bodies, 300 people are waiting for asylum-related interviews and only three slots a week.
Desperately, they decided to cross themselves and find their way to the bank of the river.
Before their death, Oscar sent his mother a final text message. It said: & # 39; Mama, I love you. We are doing well, taking care of yourself. & # 39;
She has since described him as a & # 39; polite & # 39 ;.
His parents want their death to serve as a lesson for anyone considering crossing the border.
Mourning: Oscar Ramirez's mother, Rosa, cries while holding up dolls with which Valeria played. She said she begged them not to try the crossing, but that they were determined to live up to the American dream
& # 39; I hope this is a lesson for everyone that crossing is easy.
& # 39; It is not. It risks your life, & she said to the local media La Prensa.
Le Duc, prescribes The Guardian, described how news about their deaths arrived at the border on Sunday.
& # 39; There was an emergency call about a woman walking desperately along the river. We heard the report and went to the river where she screamed and screamed that the current had taken her daughter.
& # 39; Later we discovered that her name was Vanessa Ávalos. We could hear her say that they had been in Mexico for two months and wanted to apply for asylum in the US.
I beg you, all families, parents, don't risk it. Life is worth much more
Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill
& # 39; She said they had been to Tapachula in southern Mexico and had applied for a humanitarian visa (allowing them to stay and work in Mexico for a year) but they wanted the American dream – so they took a bus to up to the border, & she said.
Scraping photos of the scene show that Tania desperately points to the water where her husband and daughter were wiped out.
The Mexican police took a boat to find them, but they stopped the search on Sunday evening.
On Monday morning their bodies were found downstream 500 meters.
& # 39; I have been a police reporter for many years and I have seen many bodies – and many drownings. The Rio Bravo is a very strong river: you think it is only superficial, but there are many currents and hot tubs.
& # 39; You are numbed by it, but when you see something like that, it becomes sensitive again.
& # 39; You could see the father had put her in his T-shirt so that the current would not pull her away.
& # 39; He died trying to save his daughter's life, & # 39; she said.
The government of El Salvador has agreed to repatriation costs to bring the bodies back home.
The photo prompted the Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill to make a desperate plea to other families considering the trip.
& # 39; Our country is in mourning again. I beg you, all families, parents, don't risk it. & # 39; Life is worth much more & # 39 ;, she said at a press conference on Monday.
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